UVA Rape Hoax a Year Later: Innocents Smeared, Lawsuits, and a Missing Reporter

UVA rotunda at night

If there is any truth to the claim of a “rape culture”, it is because harmful rags like Rolling Stone propagate it. They do not “bravely” report on a supposed sexual assault epidemic. Instead, they eagerly spread a false narrative which says that every young female college student in the United States is moments away from being a rape victim, while men (all of whom are probably evil) are to blame.

As you may recall, last November Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely. This shocking article is laced with vivid description of an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity party. The story disintegrated due to lack of actual evidence and growing questions about the victim, “Jackie”, and her story. Erdely had acted opposite to how an investigative journalist should act. Her desire to strike at “the patriarchy”, regardless of evidence, seemed to dominate any other consideration. Rolling Stone issued an apology in December 2014 after much fallout, and, early in 2015, Columbia’s School of Journalism published a report slamming the magazine and its “narrative journalism”.

Earlier this year, a dean at UVA filed a lawsuit for $7.5 million claiming misrepresentation by Rolling Stone. This week the fraternity at the center of it all filed an even bigger lawsuit.

Phi Kappa Psi’s University of Virginia chapter has officially filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone and writer Sabrina Erdely

You see, false rape allegations have long-lasting effects. Not only might actual victims feel less inclined to seek justice, but the falsely accused must deal with the intense stigma after we’ve stopped clicking on the story. As reported by Newsweek:

The fraternity faced demonstrations, which are detailed in photographs in the complaint. In one instance, a woman held a sign pointing toward her reading, “Doesn’t want to take classes with rapists.” Bricks and glass were thrown at the fraternity house, shattering several windows. “UVA Center for rape studies,” one vandal painted on the side of the fraternity’s house.

The complaint also details the social media reaction that fraternity members faced after the story was published. An email inbox with over 1,300 messages includes this message: “Shame on you for raping your co-students and encouraging this rape through misogynistic poetry…. Go ahead do it, kill yourselves, do the world a favor assholes.” And in what appears to be a Facebook message to one of the fraternity’s members, an anonymous person wrote: “Your fraternity is a piece of shit, if you do this to my sister I’ll hunt down every last one of you if it takes me the rest of my life.”

The complaint also details online communities set up to protest the fraternity, such as the Reform Fraternities Now and Alliance for Social Change at UVA Facebook groups.

While the victims dealing with false allegations continue to do so publicly, others who are the root cause of their continued frustrations are long gone. The “Jackie” at the center of it all? You can’t find much of anything about her. Meanwhile, author Sabrina Rubin Erdely has seemingly disappeared. Her Twitter page is frozen as of the end of November 2014, right before the bottom dropped out and her story was shown to be unsubstantiated. Her last shares on social media give an indication of the damage that was caused.

Consider the last tweet on her page, dated November 30, 2014, referencing an article in The Washington Post:

The referenced article in The Washington Post begins…

…writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely knew she wanted to write about sexual assaults at an elite university. What she didn’t know was which university.

She talked to people at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and her alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. None of those schools felt quite right. But one did: the University of Virginia…

It has been almost a year since the story came out, and many are still dealing publicly with the attacks on their reputations. That does not include “Jackie”, the quickly-believed-but-not-thoroughly-questioned “victim”, nor does it include Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Ms. Erdely’s urgent purpose, as clearly reported by The Washington Post, was to find the “right” school at which to base her story.  If rape culture were an actual epidemic, the sites of inquiry would be immediately obvious. Instead, the picking and choosing was for no other reason than to support a narrative which had been manufactured in advance.

This is what the real rape culture looks like: millions of dollars in lawsuits, lingering turmoil, forever-changed lives, and vanishing instigators.