The XX Factor

Key Player in UVA Rape Story: Rolling Stone Never Talked to Me

University of Virginia campus

Photo by Melinda Fawver/Shutterstock

Is that such a good idea? Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.

She’s gonna be the girl who cried “rape,” and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.

These two quotes, from Rolling Stone’s fast unraveling story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, were possibly the most suspicious in the story. The quotes are part of a scene that happens after the alleged gang rape, when Jackie, the woman who said she was raped, calls three friends who come to help her. One suggests they take her to the hospital, but then the other two respond with the above. It’s not that I found it hard to believe that college kids could be dismissive of a friend’s claim that she was assaulted. That probably happens all the time, and it especially happens in the nervous first few weeks of freshman year. It’s just that the quotes are a little too perfect, a little too exactly what you would write in an ABC Afterschool Special script attempting to teach teenagers how not to behave. Also, if you read the scene closely, you realize that it isn’t at all clear that the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erderly, talked to the friends in question, that she was instead relying solely on the recollection of Jackie.

Well, apparently she didn’t talk to the friends, or at least one of them, who told the Washington Post last night that the account of what transpired after the alleged rape was not accurate. “Andy” said that he and the other two friends did not find Jackie in a bloody dress with the Phi Psi house looming in the background, as it was told in Rolling Stone. Neither, he says, did they debate the “social price” of taking her to the hospital. He said Jackie told him that she had been at a frat party and a group of men forced her to perform oral sex, although she did not specify which frat. He said she did not have any visible injuries but the friends offered to get her help, and then spent the night with her in her dorm room to comfort her at her request. (Update, Dec. 7, 2014: It appears Erderly also did not talk to the friend identified in the Rolling Stone article as “Cindy,” who told the Washington Post a similar story to Drew’s.)

The baffling thing here is, if what Jackie told Andy is true, that would have made an explosive enough story about campus sexual violence. A group of men force a freshman to perform oral sex. She reports it to the university and they don’t investigate. That’s a disturbing story. But if Andy is to be believed, that means Jackie told an exaggerated story to Erdely, and that Erdely was all too happy to create an even more perfect victim, one who was brutally gang raped and then left at the curb by her so called friends, thus further traumatizing her, and leaving her to fend for herself in a culture too backward for progressive thought. (Andy is in fact good friends with the activists at One Less, the campus group dedicated to helping survivors of sexual assault. Alexandria Pinkleton, who was portrayed as a partying bimbo in a midriff-baring top in the story, is also an activist who is friends with both Jackie and Andy, and who says she herself was sexually assaulted and successfully got her assailant sanctioned, she told me.)*

There are many other lines in the original story that are hard to buy (“Grab its motherfucking leg”), and should have raised red flags in the offices of Rolling Stone. Sometimes, a story is too good, or awful, to be true.

*Correction, Dec. 6, 2014: This story originally misstated that Alexandria Pinkleton got her assailant kicked out of school.