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Perspective on Rolling Stone's UVA Rape Article
By Gretchen Gales
Though it has been a couple of weeks now, there's still much to say in regards to Rolling Stone's article "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA". The article was written by Sabrina Erdely and published online November 2014 (later featured in the December 2014 print issue) of the popular publication. I recently subscribed to Rolling Stone because I enjoy reading interviews my favorite musicians and other pop culture personalities. With that said, I typically only glance at the current events and political content unless the topic catches my eye. As a Virginia college student, anything pertaining to higher education will be my immediate focus. Of course, nothing was more eye-catching than seeing an elite university at the center of controversy, especially one so familiar.
The University of Virginia (UVA) was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819. It has since blossomed into one of Virginia's premier universities and holds international esteem for both its academics and the "work hard, player harder" lifestyle of its students. I've personally met quite a few students and alumni of UVA, and, among them, you'll find a wide range of personalities, motivations, and interests...just like at any college or university. Not that much different from average college students who (surprise, surprise) are also concerned with social status and attending parties. But somewhere inside of us all, we enjoy seeing anything of prestige be humbled, even destroyed. Moments after seeing the headline, I caught myself thinking, Not so fancy now, eh? But let's be honest with ourselves for a moment. Why did that particular article go viral? Why was it that now that it seemed everyone suddenly cared about rape culture on campus? For the same reason I kept reading: it was a darn good juicy story filled with scandal.
Later, Rolling Stone admitted that there were "discrepancies" in the article. The facts given to them by Jackie and the evidence and conclusions of the many investigations of the Phi Kappa Psi house and UVA did not align. Rolling Stone's Managing Editor Will Dana released a statement saying, "Our trust in [Jackie] was misplaced," averting blame from the magazine onto "Jackie." Shortly afterward, an updated statement was released, though it was just as disturbing as the initial statement:
"We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening."
Aside from the obvious, another disturbing aspect of the article is that editors and reporters take these kinds of irresponsible risks on a daily basis, all for the sake of an interesting story. The integrity of journalism has become as shallow as the reasons Rolling Stone would publish the article without so much as triple checking the facts before publishing an article with such fierce accusations. If I want to read a fantastical piece of literature that is shocking and exciting, I will happily retreat into my niche and read Harry Potter. But please, for the sake of those suffering and for those that may desperately need someone to hear their story without judgement and previous assumptions.
The damage done by Rolling Stone's article has manifested in many ways, including a certainly expensive vandalism of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house where the events allegedly took place. But the worst was causing a severe setback in justice for victims of ALL types of sexual assault. From rape, molestation, or other heinous acts, victims are already reluctant enough to report them. On college campuses alone, one in four women will likely experience some form of sexual assault. That means it has become harder for around twenty-five percent of college women to report sexual crimes against them. There is already the false stigma that all women "cry rape" for attention, revenge, etc.
Now, I myself don't attend any big fraternity or sorority parties...or any large parties at all. Am I a prude? No. The term you're looking for is a paranoid, anxious introvert that prefers staying home snuggled in a blanket with a book (or watching Netflix). Even though I choose not to partake in parties or other big events, some of my friends do. As a naturally anxious person, I always want my friends to be safe, whether or not I agree with their decisions. The most important thing to me is that they get home safe and unharmed. But tragedies that should never happen still occur, and if a sexual assault were to happen to one of my friends, I would want justice. The hangover fades away, but the trauma from a sexual assault haunts the victim forever. No one deserves that, no matter how what they were doing, how they were dressed, or any other pitiful excuse people use for their own selfish purposes.
Because of the swarm of allegations, opinions, and unrelenting chaos, the unfortunate truth is nobody may never know what actually happened. There will always be information the public will never have access to. If Jackie did in fact suffer sexual trauma, the mind tends to shut down for a while and sometimes even distorts our memory. Just because there were facts that didn't line up exactly doesn't mean nothing happened. On the other hand, there is the occasional (pardon my phrasing) turd in the punch bowl that seeks attention or has some other nefarious motive. But instead of sitting around and pouting about whether or not the article is a hoax or not, take the opportunity to educate students on campus about their rights under the Title IV Act or promoting perpetrator shaming. Openly talk about the issues and follow up with it for a higher success rate for preventing sexual assaults from happening. Don't be lukewarm about the issue or get involved when it's popular to do so. Unfortunately, sexual assaults won't be fully eliminated, but there will come a day when seeing a sexual assault report will be a rare circumstance, and the usual response of "What was she wearing and doing?" to "What can we do to prevent this from happening?"
Hopefully time will tell.
#Real #UVA #RollingStone #Rape #Shame #CampusRape #CampusParties #CollegeRape #OneInFour #SexualAssault
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