In my first post about the University of Virgina rape case I stated, “All the problems here lie with Rolling Stone and its poor handling of this story. We do not know that Jackie lied about the gang rape. As I noted, perhaps it did happen. Perhaps it happened at another location. Perhaps it involved other people. It is also possible this is a lie. The entire story could be a lie. She could have conned everyone, including her friends and the activists.
We do not know, and given what happened to Rolling Stone when they jumped to conclusions, I suggest everyone else exercise restraint in calling Jackie a false accuser. Wait until more information becomes available.”
Thanks to the Washington Post’s investigation of Jackie’s claims, more information has become available, and it is not good for Jackie.
According to a recent Washington Post article, the three friends Jackie first told about her story to claim that the version of events published in Rolling Stone is wrong:
The scene with her friends was pivotal in the article, as it alleged that the friends were callously apathetic about a beaten, bloodied, injured classmate reporting a brutal gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The account alleged that the students worried about the effect it might have on their social status and how it might reflect on Jackie during the rest of her collegiate career and that they suggested not reporting it. It set up the article’s theme: That U-Va. has a culture that is indifferent to rape.
“It didn’t happen that way at all,” Andy said.
Instead, the friends remember being shocked. Although they did not notice any blood or visible injuries, they said they immediately urged Jackie to speak to police and insisted that they find her help. Instead, they said, Jackie declined and asked to be taken back to her dorm room. They went with her — two said they spent the night — seeking to comfort Jackie in what appeared to be a moment of extreme turmoil.
“I mean, obviously, we were very concerned for her,” Andy said. “We tried to be as supportive as we could be.”
That is the first of many new revelations. The friends told The Post that the name Jackie gave them did not match anyone in the school’s database. They checked for the name prior to Jackie’s date with the man. They wanted to know more about him, but found no record of him.
Jackie sent her friends a photo of the man she claimed had a crush on her, yet that image turned out to be one of a boy she casually knew from high school. The young man told The Post that he barely knew Jackie, had not been to Charlottesville in six years, and had participated in an athletic event in another state at the time the alleged gang-rape occurred.
One of the friends, given the alias “Randall”, contested another claim made in Rolling Stone’s article. In the article, Sabrina Erdely stated that Randall refused an interview. However, Randall told The Post that he was never contacted by anyone for an interview, and would have granted one had he been asked.
In another instance, Jackie told a sexual violence specialist who worked at U-Va. that she had been attacked by five students. Now she claims it was seven.
There are more problems with Jackie’ story:
Last week, for the first time, Jackie revealed a name of her main alleged attacker to other friends who had known her more recently, those recent friends said. That name was different from the name she gave Andy, Cindy and Randall that first night. All three said that they had never heard the second name before learning it from a reporter.
On Friday, The Post interviewed a man whose name is similar to the second one Jackie used for her main attacker. He said that although he was a lifeguard at the same time as Jackie, he had never met her in person and never taken her out on a date. He also said that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
Feminists have spent the last week trying to explain away the inconsistencies in Jackie’s story. Several published articles arguing that people should believe accusers by default. Some ran articles explaining how trauma survivor’s memories can be fragmented. Some argued against calling cases with massive inconsistencies hoaxes. Others posted pieces arguing that false accusations are so rare they are rarer than sexual violence against males.
None of that changes the problems with Jackie’s story. As Hanna Rosin noted in her article about The Post’s new piece:
The Washington Post has an update on Rolling Stone’s UVA story that strongly implies, without outright saying so, that the gang rape at the center of Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article might be fabricated.
It looks that way. There are so many problems with the story that it is hard to claim they result from traumatic memory loss. Either Jackie’s memory is so fragmented that she has filled the gaps with whatever she learned from the activists she encountered, she was assaulted by someone else somewhere but claimed it happened at U-Va., or she lied. There is no way her story as reported in Rolling Stone could be true.
It is understandble that people would reject that idea. Even the friends she deceived (at least in regards to the identity and potential existence of her date) continue to support her. Randall told The Post:
“She had very clearly just experienced a horrific trauma,” Randall said. “I had never seen anybody acting like she was on that night before, and I really hope I never have to again. . . . If she was acting on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, then she deserves an Oscar.”
Yet is possible that Jackie lied. It is also possible that Erdely lied. Rosin mentioned the claim about Randall refusing an interview:
That could mean one of two things: Jackie could have given Erdely fake contact information for Randall and then posed as Randall herself, sending the reporter that email in which he supposedly declined to participate in the story. Erdely also could have lied about trying to contact Randall. Rolling Stone might have hinted at this possibility in its “Note to Our Readers” when it referred to a “friend of Jackie’s (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone)” but later spoke to the Washington Post. That would take Erdely a big step beyond just being gullible and failing to check her facts, moving this piece in the direction of active wrongdoing.
More disconcerting is that it appears Erdely sought out a story like Jackie’s. According to Rosin, when asked why she settled on Jackie’s story, Erdely stated that she called universities and received “typical” stories about rape. Jackie’s story was different and sensational. This is apparently not the first time Erdely did something like this.
I am still unwilling to call this a case of a false accusation. Yet I will say that the new evidence certainly makes it appear to be false. Even if it is not, there are enough problems with Jackie’s credibility that it would be difficult to keep the case from being dismissed, let alone get a conviction.
These revelations should also be a warning to people arguing that we ought to believe every claim a woman makes about rape by default. Sometimes it is a good idea to listen but verify.