It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
Three weeks after police released their report discrediting the rape accusation made by a UVA student, there are still defenders of Jackie claiming that she is the real victim. It is amazing to witness the level of cognitive dissonance on display.
The police report could not have been clearer: there was zero evidence supporting Jackie’s claim of being gang-raped in frat house by seven men. The police could not verify a single element of the story. Indeed, they found the opposite: plenty of evidence suggesting nothing happened. One could not ask for more evidence that this was a false accusation outside of a video of Jackie somewhere else when the alleged rape took place.
Yet that has not stopped the excuses made on this woman’s behalf. There have been some amazing bad article. By far the best and the dumbest came from Sargon of Akkad’s “pumpkin” Jessica Valenti. (Feel free to look it up and read it for yourself, but understand you could have been staring at the wall instead of reading that idiocy.) Cheryl Hunter wrote such an article for the Good Men Project. She begins with:
There’s an epidemic afoot, and it is catching. Unlike other communicable diseases, no matter on which side of the vaccination issue you find yourself, no injection will save you.
It is an epidemic of silence around sexual assault, and it is characterized by two factors:
- The silence of victims
- The silence of those who know the victims or know the perpetrators
There is not an epidemic afoot. This precisely the kind of hyperbolic language that led to Rolling Stone’s article. There is, however, a tendency within society to silence those who want to speak about uncomfortable things. These things can range from sexual assault to religious differences. It is human nature not to cause discord within one’s community. Discussing these things causes discord, ergo there is a concerted effort to shut down any discussion about them. As noted, it is not limited to sexual violence. The same thing happens with child abuse, drug addiction, and religious deconversion.
Yet that is not Hunter’s actual point. This is:
Was “Jackie” in the Rolling Stone article A Rape On Campus really gang raped? Perhaps we’ll never know. I was, though, and I think the Rolling Stone debacle fuels the epidemic of silence, and has long-range importance to us all, regardless of our gender or whether we, personally, have been sexually assaulted or not.
The Rolling Stone debacle… on second thought, let us call it what it is. The Rolling Stone fuck up happened because the people involved did not exercise basic journalist skills and fact-check their source. The only thing this fuck up fuels is more fuck ups as people insist on believing any and every woman who claims rape regardless of whether her story holds up under scrutiny.
Hunter goes on:
To be clear, when A Rape On Campus was first published last December, I was thrilled. The article’s publication came on the heels of the release of the Ray and Janay Rice elevator video and The Washington Post’s piece on the rape allegations against Bill Cosby. Victims of sexual assault were coming out of hiding and telling their stories in record numbers, and the tide seemed to be changing for the better, as those stories were being heard, listened to, and even acted upon.
And then it all went south. What could have made a profound positive difference in the lives of survivors — and those in their lives — was about to have the opposite effect.
Why was that? What happened to cause this opposite effect?
Inconsistencies were found in the Rolling Stone piece; then the feeding frenzy began. The voracity with which people went after discrediting the specific particles of the article seemed inexplicable to me. […] It was as if somehow people could discredit the article, the rape issue would go away, or better yet: it never happened in the first place.
That is not what happened. People read the article and accepted it. Other reporters, however, found several issues with the article. The most notable issue was the lack of comment from the accused parties. None of them were interviewed and it appeared that no effort was made to find them. A similar issue arose with Jackie’s friends. None of them were interviewed either. All their statements in the article came from Jackie. A few people caught this, but it was mostly other reporters who saw the glaring error. Apparently having the integrity Erdely and Rolling Stone’s staff lacked, these reporters went public with that information. This led to more questions, which eventually brought the article down.
The overwhelming collective response seemed to be akin to, “So you were raped, huh, Jackie? Prove it!”
Yes, when one makes the kind of accusation Jackie made one should expect people to say, “Prove it!” Why should anyone accept that a group of seven men gang-raped a woman in a frat house on broken glass without a lick of evidence outside of the woman’s claim? One could argue against that position if the revelation came out in a therapy session. However, this was a public accusation made against a fraternity and university with specific individuals named. It is our ethical and moral imperative to question such a story.
Problem is, even if the specifics of A Rape On Campus were altered, amalgamated, or even fabricated entirely, it’s still no secret that rape and gang rape occurs on campus and elsewhere all the time.
That has nothing to do with this case. Right now, there is a boy being raped. He could be in foster care, in prison, on the street, or at a friend’s house. That has zero to do with Michael Egan apparently lying about being assaulted by director Bryan Singer.
How often is “all the time”? According to RAINN, those violent acts occur every 107 seconds. Ignoring or attempting to discredit numbers that large is done at our own peril.
We do not actually know how large or small the numbers are. This is part of the problem. We can solve this problem by simply treating sexual violence as a serious issue worthy of concern and using statistics only to illustrate the rate at which the acts occur. Instead, people politicize the issue and use statistics to hammer in certain agendas. When those statistics are discredited, the very people pushing them suddenly claim they do not matter. For those people, the issue is not protecting victims; the issue is playing politics.
Unfortunately the way in which the Rolling Stone story was discredited — not simply the fact that it was discredited — will likely force victims of sexual assault back into hiding. And that would be a real problem for us all.
Do you mean by people actually fact-checking Jackie’s story and finding that nothing, literally not one thing, she claimed held up to scrutiny? How exactly is checking for evidence to support Jackie’s claim a problem?
Another tragedy of the A Rape On Campus mess is that it perpetuates the culture of victim-blaming. The Associated Press states that Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner “took a combative tone, saying that despite the magazine’s failures, ‘Jackie’ was also responsible.”
There is no problem with this statement. Jackie is responsible for the stories she told, be they true or false. No one else bears responsibility for that.
Look, we all make mistakes in life; we’re human. When that happens, the right thing to do is to stand up, take full accountability, and fulfill whatever reparations necessary to make up for the damage we’ve caused.
Did Jackie stand up and take full accountability for what she did and make whatever reparations necessary to make up for the damage she caused? No. She refused to cooperate with the police during their investigation of the initial accusation, her second one about being assaulted with a bottle during a march, and the follow-up investigation after the article’s fallout. Jackie is in hiding and is not taking any responsibility for any of the problems she caused.
Let us also disabuse ourselves of the idea that this was a “mistake.” This was a deliberate lie. However, Hunter is not talking about Jackie:
In feigning to take responsibility, all the while shifting the blame to “Jackie,” Wenner demonstrates the same flippant disregard that his magazine displayed in publishing A Rape On Campus in the first place. Wenner should have shouldered the blame himself. Rolling Stone has broad shoulders; teenage rape victims do not.
Jackie is not a teenage rape victim, at least not in terms of the case she presented to Rolling Stone. Even if Jackie were raped at some point in her life, she does not get a pass to falsely accuse frat boys of rape because she is not comfortable talking about what really happened to her. To suggest otherwise is to set such a low bar for victims that one essentially argues that they are too damaged to be expected to tell the truth.
This is absurd. No violation gives one the right to lie about what happened. Yet that is what Jackie did. The evidence is clear on that: what she claimed happened simply did not happen.
Yes, it was a mistake for Rolling Stone to publish the article without fact-checking it. Yes, it was a mistake for Sabrina Erdely to seek out the most wild case she could find instead of taking one of the “typical” cases. However, the fault of the inconsistent and discredited claim lies solely with the person who made it. That is Jackie. Pointing the finger at anyone else is dishonest.