Photo by Mia Field '15
On November 19, 2014 Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA”. Sabrina Rubin Erdely describes a horrific gang rape done to a UVA student, Jackie, by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The article goes viral and the public was appalled by the excruciating details in the story.
Weeks following the initial shock questions started to be raised about the validity of the account. Several media platforms began to negate the article’s reliability. Several discrepancies in Jackie’s story become clear.
On December 22, 2014 Rolling Stone asks the Columbia Journalism School to conduct an independent review of its report.
On January 12, 2015 the full police investigation of the alleged rape comes to a close. Charlottesville police report they have no evidence to support there was a rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
Rolling Stones retracted “A Rape on Campus” and published the full review the Columbia Journalism School conducted. The review summarized:
“Rolling Stone’s repudiation of the main narrative in ‘A Rape on Campus’ is a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable. The failure encompassed reporting, editing, editorial supervision and fact-checking.”
Although there is no evidence supporting Jackie’s claims, there is no evidence rejecting that something might have happened to Jackie on September 28th, 2012.
Rape in Numbers: One in Four
Campus rape is prevalent in shocking numbers. The One In Four Organization reports that “One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime.” Every 21 hours there is another rape on an American college campus according to the Cleveland Rape Crisis Organization.
Who are the Victims? Who are the Offenders? Nine in Ten Women Know The Person
The National Sexual Violence Research Center (NSVRC) reports that “among college women, 9 in 10 victims of rape and sexual assault knew their offender.” and 12. 8 % of rapes were done during a date. According to the One in Four Organization, women in sororities are 74 % more likely to experience rape and men in fraternities are three times more likely to commit sexual assault than other college men. The consumption of heavy episodic drinking increases a woman’s chances of experiencing rape by eight-fold, and 64% of rapists consume alcohol prior to the assault.
What Happens After?
Approximately 11% of college women who experience rape report it to the police and 7% who experience attempted rape report to the police. Of the reported rapes, only 10% of the cases result in criminal charges against the perpetrator.
The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is gaining more attention and people are beginning to question the way college administrators handle these incidents. “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary that shines light on sexual assault on college campuses, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It critiques several colleges and demands that they learn how to deal with campus rape more effectively.
With pressure from the Federal Government, colleges are revising the way they define rape. The Education’s Office for Civil Rights dictates to colleges the procedures they must follow in regard to campus sexual complaints. Some universities state any sexual encounter where either party is under the influence of alcohol can be deemed as rape; however, 40% of undergraduates, both men and women, had sex while under the influence of alcohol, and did not qualify it as rape. Although these revisions have been put in place to defend the rape victims, it has made the process more difficult and confusing.
Another area of discussion is the fact that colleges carry out rape hearings without having adequate training. It is already difficult enough because such a small amount of campus rapes are reported to police. If they are 90% of cases do no not end in convictions. Normally, the most a college can do is a semester of suspension, sensitivity training, or possible expulsion; this allows the offenders to keep walking free.
Some argue that in order to deal with campus rape, universities and law enforcement should team up when a rape is reported. Some say, the university should have people readily available to try to persuade the victim to come forward and file a report. Trained investigative officials should be handling rape trials, not the university workers themselves. Furthermore, the definition of sexual assault should be revised to the original legal definition to protect the accused and make rape accusations less unambiguous.
For one thing, this Rolling Stone story has shed a little more light on a dark subject. The Rolling Stone source was unreliable, or at least unverified. The above statistics are real.
Have any friends or relatives in college now? How fairly do you think campus rape is being handled to protect college students? Answer in the comments section below, or email [email protected]