How Rolling Stone Should Have Dealt With the Fallout From Its UVA Story

Jackie’s “inconsistencies” are hardly as egregious as the sexual assault animating much of Greek life on college campuses today.

A UVA student protesting Phi Kappa Psi. Photo by Flickr user Bob Mical.

After reading the account of a young woman’s brutal and vicious gang rape, I didn’t think I could feel more disgusted or horrified. I was wrong. Rolling Stone retracted its UVA story in the most vile manner by pandering to the motif of the despicable woman crying rape in order to… what exactly would anonymized Jackie get out of making up this story? In any event, I was wrong. I did feel more disgusted and horrified as I witnessed the barrage of responses crucifying this young girl’s character and then eventually putting her in physical danger by publishing her address and literally running her out of her home. Is it any wonder that women don’t report their rapes when it is their integrity and character that are put on the line rather than their rapist’s?

The events surrounding the retraction demonstrate society’s ongoing struggle with the complex realities of rape and an unfortunate willingness to default to the comfortable, yet ungrounded, belief in false rape. It is so much easier to call a woman a liar than to be forced to challenge and change the systemic nature of rape, to face our own individual and institutional complicity in violence against women.

To be clear, Jackie’s “inconsistencies” consist of getting the date of the party wrong and misidentifying one of the men who raped her as a member of another frat. Additionally, Jackie claimed that she had seen a few friends after the assault and told them what had happened. The friends now say that she only told them that a group of men had forced her to have oral sex and did not specify which frat. Their recollection is privileged as a more trustworthy version of events next to Jackie’s. The inconsistency between the two accounts has been interpreted as evidence that Jackie was lying about the rape, rather than as evidence that Jackie was shocked or confused following her brutal attack, or as evidence that her friends are lying or confused. Put aside the fact that shame is often the most potent emotion a rape victim experiences. Put aside the fact that victims, if they do tell anyone, will often attempt to minimize the ordeal or actually block it out.

Despite the well-documented science that explains why rape victims often can’t recall the events in a linear timeline or will sometimes create memories to fill gaps, it is simply easier to call her a liar. It is easier to particularize the issues to this school and this girl and these men, and to distract ourselves from the larger problem (a rape problem of epidemic proportions) as well as our own complicity in rape culture. It is easier to put Jackie on trial. It is easier to discount Jackie’s word while the testimony of her colleagues, for better or for worse, is used to decipher the veracity of her story.

Those who know the statistics know that Jackie’s story is not unique. Frat brothers are 300 percent more likely to rape. Women in sororities are 74 percent more likely to experience rape than other college women. One in five women will be sexually assaulted while studying at college. Men are eleven times more likely to be killed by an asteroid than to be falsely accused of rape. And we know the anecdotal stories: We know that sexual assault is very much a part of “rush culture” and Greek life. I remember a member of the Greek system at my own alma mater telling me about a secret room in the house containing a hidden video camera where members were urged to take intoxicated girls during parties. There were innumerable stories like this. The audacity of the Greek system at UVA to demand an apology from the university for finally taking action against campus rape and suspending the entire Greek system is despicable. This is not about one woman’s story; it’s about an epidemic of rape within the Greek system.

Clearly, Rolling Stone did not take seriously the lesson of its own story when it chose to erase and delegitimize Jackie’s experience after she had gathered the extraordinary courage to tell it. In light of this, I’d like to recommend a third draft of a statement for Rolling Stone's consideration that is more consistent with the science of trauma and human dignity:

"Jackie forgot the precise date she was gang-raped by seven men over the course of three hours. One of the men who raped Jackie was not a member of the said fraternity. There is a mountain of evidence on the way rape victims respond to extreme trauma, including the effect on recall of the events in a linear manner. Rape victims should not be put on trial for their own rape, particularly where evidence of true inconsistency is so lacking."

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

RELATED: He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

RELATED: 'High Castle' producers destroyed every swastika used on the show and the video is oh-so satisfying

In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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