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Rolling Stone UVA Rape Controversy: Friends of Alleged Victim Remember It Differently

Three friends identified as “Andy,” “Cindy” and “Randall” in the RS story tell the Washington Post the woman told them a different story the night of the alleged attack

Rolling Stone’s story of an alleged rape at the University of Virginia continues to come under fire. The Washington Post reached out to three friends of “Jackie,” the woman who claimed she’d been gang-raped at a fraternity on campus in September 2012 while on a date. They told the paper that their recollection of the events surrounding her alleged attack differ from what was reported in the magazine.

The Post interviewed “Jackie’s” college friends separately. The three were mentioned in the RS article via the pseudonyms “Andy,” “Cindy” and “Randall,” but told the Post they were never contacted by Rolling Stone’s editors or reporters. The Washington Post continued use of those aliases.

Each denied the Rolling Stone article’s claims that they discouraged “Jackie” from reporting the alleged attack, and were largely indifferent about her bloodied and battered physical state. According to their recollections, they didn’t notice any visible injuries on “Jackie” and they immediately urged her to speak with authorities, which she elected not to do.

The students offered the Post additional details about the night in question, which included a strange text exchange they shared with the paper. In it, they chatted with someone purporting to be “Jackie’s” date, a junior from her chemistry class, both before and after the alleged rape. However, the pictures they were sent of this man weren’t of any student at the University of Virginia, and were instead of one of “Jackie’s” high school classmates who was participating in an athletic event in a different state at the time of the alleged attack.

The Washington Post verified the man’s identity, who told the paper he “never really spoke” to “Jackie.” According to the paper, the pictures appear to have been taken from social media sites.

According to the three students, after “Jackie” told them she’d agreed to go on a date with the junior, they attempted to find him in the student database and on social media, but were unable to do so with the name she had given them. Officials at the university told the Washington Post that no student by that name had ever been enrolled there.

“Jackie” revealed the name of her attacker to more recent friends last week, but according to her three college friends, it was a different name than the one she gave them at the time of the alleged attack.

The Washington Post reached out to a man with a name similar to the second name “Jackie” used who did attend the university. He said that while he was a lifeguard there at the same time as “Jackie,” he’d never met her in person, nor was he a member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity where “Jackie” said the assault took place.

The fraternity told the Post that it did not host an unregistered social event the night of the alleged attack, and said in a statement that none of its members worked at the campus pool, where “Jackie” said she later ran into her attacker.

The original Rolling Stone article is now preceded by a lengthy editor’s note that addresses many of the Washington Post’s findings, admitting that “there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. ”

It is an expanded version of the open letter the magazine posted to its readers when the story was first being questioned. In it, Rolling Stone’s managing editor Will Dana writes, “Jackie herself is now unsure if the man she says lured her into the room where the rape occurred, identified in the story as “Drew,” was a Phi Psi brother.”

Read the new, expanded editor’s note preceding the original article in its entirety below.

Last month, Rolling Stone published a story entitled A Rape on Campus, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie during a party 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 investigates sexual assault allegations.

Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man who she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men who she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Sabrina Rubin Erdely reported the story, Jackie said or did nothing that made her, or Rolling Stone‘s editors and fact-checkers, question her credibility. Jackie’s friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported her account. She had spoken of the assault in  campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of Phi Psi, the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but that they had questions about the evidence. 

In the face of new information reported by the Washington Post and other news outlets, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account. The fraternity has issued a formal statement denying the assault and asserting that there was no “date function or formal event” on the night in question. Jackie herself is now unsure if the man she says lured her into the room where the rape occurred, identified in the story as “Drew,” was a Phi Psi brother. According to the Washington Post, “Drew” actually belongs to a different fraternity and when contacted by the paper, he denied knowing Jackie. Jackie told Rolling Stone that after she was assaulted, she ran into “Drew” at a UVA pool where they both worked as lifeguards. In its statement, Phi Psi says none of its members worked at the pool in the fall of 2012. A friend of Jackie’s (who we were told would not speak to Rolling Stone) told the Washington Post that he found Jackie that night a mile from the school’s fraternities. She did not appear to be “physically injured at the time” but was shaken. She told him that that she had been forced to have oral sex with a group of men at a fraternity party, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. Other friends of Jackie’s told the Washington Post that they now have doubts about her narrative, but Jackie told the Washington Post that she firmly stands by the account she gave to Erdely. 

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.