Jackie UP, Rolling Stone further DOWN. If you were an early reader of the Washington Post UVA rape expose exonerating Phi Kappa Psi I am begging you to go back and re-read it; despite the absence of any hints such as "UPDATED", majors news corroborating the notion of a group sex assault has been inserted into the original story at the original link. Presumably all for the Saturday Dead Tree readers, and I question that business model.
Conversely, if you are a late reader of the current WaPo version you might wonder why people seem to be talking about two different stories.
Here is the fourth paragraph I excerpted Friday afternoon:
A group of Jackie’s close friends, who are sex assault awareness advocates at U-Va., said they believe something traumatic happened to Jackie but have come to doubt her account. They said details have changed over time, and they have not been able to verify key points of the story in recent days. A name of an alleged attacker that Jackie provided to them for the first time this week, for example, turned out to be similar to the name of a student who belongs to a different fraternity, and no one by that name has been a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
And brace yourself for the current version, which has undergone a Sweet Jiminy revision (my emphasis):
A group of Jackie’s close friends, who are advocates at U-Va. for sex-assault awareness, said they believe that something traumatic happened to her, but they also have come to doubt her account. A student who came to Jackie’s aid the night of the alleged attack said in an interview late Friday night that she did not appear physically injured at the time but was visibly shaken and told him and two other friends that she had been at a fraternity party and had been forced to have oral sex with a group of men. They offered to get her help and she said she just wanted to return to her dorm, said the student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
More details appears much later:
A student identified as “Andy” in the Rolling Stone article said in an interview with The Post Friday night that Jackie did call him and two other friends for help a few weeks into the fall semester in 2012. He said Jackie said that “something bad happened” and that he ran to meet her on campus, about a mile from the school’s fraternities.
The student, who said he never spoke to a Rolling Stone reporter, said Jackie seemed “really upset, really shaken up” but disputed other details of that article’s account. Rolling Stone said that the three friends found Jackie in a “bloody dress,” with the Phi Kappa Psi house looming in the background, and that they debated “the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape” before advising against seeking help. He said none of that is accurate.
“Andy” said Jackie said she had been at a fraternity party and had been forced to perform oral sex on a group of men, but he does not remember her identifying a specific house. He said he did not notice any injuries or blood but said the group offered to get her help. She, instead, wanted to return to her dorm, and he and the friends spent the night with her to comfort her at her request.
“The perception that I’m gravitating toward is that something happened that night and it’s gotten lost in different iterations of the stories that have been told,” said the student who requested anonymity. “Is there a possibility nothing happened? Sure. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.”
Wow. Richard Bradley, who started this exercise in journalistic standards, wondered whether anyone from the Rolling Stone had talked to the three rescuers, as did I. They also seemed to be missing from the WaPo exoneration I first read. But they aren't missing now.
That is a headline-worthy addition to the coverage, and strong support for the "something dreadful happened somewhere" theory. If a PTSD victim (symptoms of which include memory loss of details of the key event) has transformed forced oral sex to rape, invented the broken glass table and misidentified the fraternity, is she a shameless lying opportunist or a victim of a very serious crime? That is not meant to be a tough call.
[ADD: Or maybe Jackie spent time with rape advocates who knew the Federal definition. From the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network:
For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as:
“Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim."
Under Virginia law we seem to be discussing Forcible Sodomy. Have a nice Sunday.]
I know that serious journalists covering this will want to re-think their coverage. Robby Soave of Reason wondered early on if the Rolling Stone story was a "hoax", and took this victory lap on Friday afternoon:
Virtually all details of the horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity detailed in an engrossing Rolling Stone article last month are now either disputed our outright debunked. A terrific Washington Post investigation—which includes an interview with Jackie, the accuser—casts serious doubt on the narrative Jackie told to Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the author of the originalRolling Stone piece.
In light of all this new information, it's impossible to say what exactly happened to Jackie. But it's clear that her story, as told to Erdely, is false. Not slightly false, or partly false, but false. And if Rolling Stone had done its job, the magazine might well have determined that before such a journalistic catastrophe unfolded.
If he wanted to stand by that in its entirety without any softening at all in light of the new information, I suppose I could defend his decision (I picked my rose years ago). But I don't see an UPDATE at his post either and I wouldn't be surprised to see some softening to the "Not slightly false, or partly false, but false" declaration. C'mon, the three rescuers exist and confirm she was in distress - that's not nothing.
On the other hand, any initial criticism of Rolling Stone was apparently understated. In addition to not interviewing the alleged perp, they didn't interview the rescuers? How ever bad a job people thought the Rolling Stone did, it was worse. Yeah, and their initial apology, since revised, was deplorable too.
But let's give Ms. Erdely a bit of a golf clap for the one comment she got from Randall, one of the three rescuers:
Two years later, Jackie, now a third-year, is worried about what might happen to her once this article comes out. Greek life is huge at UVA, with nearly one-third of undergrads belonging to a fraternity or sorority, so Jackie fears the backlash could be big – a "shitshow" predicted by her now-former friend Randall, who, citing his loyalty to his own frat, declined to be interviewed.
He called it. And all change.
OK, THE WAPO BURIED MORE HERE: Late in a follow-up process story about change coming to UVA we get more details:
Doubts about the accuracy of the Rolling Stone account continued to mount Saturday. A second U-Va. student who was among a group of three friends who came to Jackie’s aid after her alleged sexual assault during the fall semester of 2012 told The Post that details in the story were flawed.
The Rolling Stone account said that Jackie summoned three friends to help her after she was brutally raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house on Sept. 28, 2012. The article said that Jackie was bleeding and was wearing a blood-spattered dress and that she met her friends in the shadow of the looming fraternity house. It also claims that Jackie’s friends persuaded her not to report the attack for fear of it harming their social lives, a critical part in the article.
“It was not anything like what happened that night,” said the friend, who is identified in the story as “Cindy” and spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject. “That night was not very significant. I remember it, but it was not very dramatic.”
She said the students met Jackie near the U-Va. dorms, more than a mile from the campus fraternities.
“Cindy” said that Jackie appeared distraught that night but was not hurt physically and was not bleeding. The student said Jackie made no claims of a gang rape and did not identify the fraternity where she said she had partied. “Cindy” said Jackie told one of the friends there that a group of men had forced her to perform oral sex.
The student said there was never any discussion among Jackie and the group involving how their reputations or social status might be affected by seeking help.
The student said that when she read the Rolling Stone account, she felt betrayed. “It’s completely false,” she said, noting that she was not contacted or interviewed by a Rolling Stone reporter.
Jackie, in several recent interviews with The Post, stood by her account that she was gang raped at Phi Kappa Psi after she attended a party there with a date. Her version of events during those interviews was substantially similar to the Rolling Stone account.
I am now confused as to how anyone identified the fraternity, since the WaPo told us this:
“He never said he was in Phi Psi,” [Jackie] said, while noting that she was positive that the date function and attack occurred at the fraternity house. “I know it was Phi Psi, because a year afterward, my friend pointed out the building to me and said that’s where it happened.”
That seems to leave Randall not heard from, beyond his 'shitshow" comment.
Two of the three rescuers have now spoken to T Rees Shapiro. Their stories seems to provide at least one witness to a contemporaneous statement by the victim alleging sexual assault (or not - if Jackie walked a mile back to the dorms and reflected on her situation, was that time for reflection as described in North Carolina law? I am not a lawyer, the incident is in Virgina, but let me ask anyway). Whether "Cindy" overheard Jackie's comments to the male rescuer or had them described to her later is not clear. To me, anyway, but right not now much is.
RICHARD'S RULES: Let's remember the exhortation from Richard Bradley, who started untangling this journalistic snarl back on Nov 24:
One must be most critical, in the best sense of that word, about what one is already inclined to believe.
People are most easily duped by a story they want to believe. Just as two weeks ago the tide was running the other way, but right now there are plenty of people who want to believe that there is nothing at all behind the Rolling Stone story.
WHERE I AM COMING FROM:
I was an early critic of the Rolling Stone story, wondering whether we had actually heard from the three rescuers. Now they have arrived with information I am sure Ms. Erdely wishes she had exerted herself to gather earlier.
FWIW, this is the pretty-slim evidence on which I am basing my current view.
1. Jackie was reportedly an energetic, successful high school student (unrefuted from Rolling Stone, WaPo; might be false, but she did get into a good school and lifeguards have always struck me as athletic and can-do).
2. Something happened that night, Sept 28 2012. Her suitemate, Soltis, says she went into a downward spiral afterwards; her rescuers say she was "visibly shaken" and alleged forced oral sex with a group of men; per the possibly useless Rolling Stone story, Jackie failed three courses in one semester. From which I will at least take that Jackie is telling people she failed three classes; who knows whether any attempt was made to verify that?
3. She is now being treated for depression (RS, WaPo), has been diagnosed with PTSD (she claimed to WaPo) and is on medication (her claim). No word on whether she showed the WaPo her prescription bottle or waived privacy and allowed her psychiatrist to be interviewed. She has (reportedly, RS) gained 25 pounds and spends a lot of time with the rape advocates group.
4. She has reported a sexual assault to the Dean, a year too late.
5. Symptoms of PTSD include memory deficiencies around the events of the trauma. In other words, details get lost or confused. ThinkProgress is hardly my usual go-to, but Aviva Shen gathers some checkable anecdotes about rape victims and PTSD.
Points 1-3 convince me that something traumatic happened to her. OK, maybe she tripped on a sidewalk crack, bumped her head, and turned into a compulsive liar, but her statements, and (4) indicate she believed (and still believes) that the trauma was a sex assault.
The PTSD makes me inclined to put little weight on "'wrong" details. I would start with "something happened" and work forward, not with "It wasn't Phi Psi, so it's all a lie" and letting it rest. But that does make a nice chant...
MAYBE SOMEONE COULD FEMSPLAIN THIS TO ME:
I can only barely manage to square the logic in this WaPo piece about rape victims:
We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.
[BIG SKIP and]
And while the clock is ticking on the physical evidence, survivors are often grappling with the first stages of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), creating a perfect storm of foggy memories, isolation and denial....
The lasting psychological wound left by sexual assault is unique — and makes justice less likely. Survivors’ memories are often blurry, and they tell conflicting stories about what happened to them.
I think she might be trying to say the same thing I said above - start with believing that "something" happened to a victim and work forward. But I hope I wouldn't use the phrases "We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says" and "Survivors’ memories are often blurry, and they tell conflicting stories about what happened to them" in the same article without that clarification. How about "we should treat an accusers broad allegations, if not all the details, seriously" and "survivors memories are often blurry"? Works for me.