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Rolling Stone Retracts UVA Campus Rape Story

Rolling Stone magazine has retracted the reporting behind its controversial story, “A Rape on Campus,” published last month. In an editor’s note added to the top of the story online, Managing Editor Will Dana wrote that “there now appear to be discrepancies” in the primary source’s account and “we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

The original article, which caused the University of Virginia to suspend all fraternity activity on campus, came under fire once it was revealed that the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not spoken to the accused perpetrators of an alleged gang rape against a student identified as Jackie.

But while both Erdely and her editor on the story Sean Woods were confident that the assailants were real based on Jackie’s story, the magazine has now come out and said that may not be the case.

Read Dana’s full editor’s note below:

To Our Readers:

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled “A Rape on Campus” by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university’s failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school’s troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.

In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.

Will Dana
Managing Editor

When confronted by The Washington Post about the possible discrepancies earlier this week, Erdely said that those questions miss the point her article was trying to make. “As I’ve already told you, the gang-rape scene that leads the story is the alarming account that Jackie — a person whom I found to be credible — told to me, told her friends, and importantly, what she told the UVA administration, which chose not to act on her allegations in any way — i.e., the overarching point of the article,” she wrote in an email to the paper. “THAT is the story: the culture that greeted her and so many other UVA women I interviewed, who came forward with allegations, only to be met with indifference.”

[Photo via screengrab]

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