— NoEmptySuits (@NoEmptySuits) December 11, 2014
Yes, the latest shocking revelations about Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone’s journalism are stunning. They really, really messed up. Even more than we previously realized. They should receive every bit of oppobrium coming their way.
The friends quoted in the latest article still say Jackie’s changed behavior that first semester is evidence of some trauma she sustained. That may be true, although it is difficult to say what, exactly, that might have entailed. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest such a trauma bears any resemblance to the incredible story told by Rolling Stone.
Lest anyone think that this debacle is solely the fault of someone who falsely claimed rape, keep in mind that these fraudulent charges were put forth by a national magazine that made no effort to verify them, and ignored every red flag in its haste to publish the story of the century—even when Jackie refused to name her attackers and attempted to withdraw her story. Whatever the truth is—whatever the excellent reporters at WaPost manage to uncover next—the fact remains that Rolling Stone and Erdely should have known better.
Meanwhile, Max Ehrenfreund and Elahe Izadi dig into research on false rape reports:
Much of the research into false allegations examines police cases. A 2010 peer-reviewed study published in the journal Violence Against Women reviews the scholarship to date, while assessing the flaws in existing studies. The authors estimate the prevalence of false allegations of rape is 2 to 10 percent of cases reported to police. The researchers also examined 136 rape cases at a major university in the northeast that had been filed between 1998 and 2007. The process took about two years, said lead author David Lisak. They classified complaints as false if there was “a thorough investigation” that resulted in evidence showing the assault never occurred — such as video evidence. Of the 136 cases on that college campus, eight were deemed false, or a rate of 5.9 percent.
Marcotte attempts some myth-busting on fabricated rapes:
Not only do people overestimate how many false rape reports there are, they often don’t even have the right idea of what happens when false rape reports do happen. Many people believe that false reports happen when a woman, angry about not getting a phone call after a one-night stand or ashamed of having had drunken sex, decides to accuse her consensual sex partner of raping her. This belief is rooted in long-standing misogynist stereotypes of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
The reality is a little different, according to a report for the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, which is part of the National District Attorneys Association. “Despite the stereotype, false reports of sexual assault are not typically filed by women trying to ‘get back at a boyfriend’ or cover up a pregnancy, affair, or other misbehavior,” authors Kimberly Lonsway, David Lisak, and Joanne Archambault write. Instead, “the vast majority are actually filed by people with serious psychological and emotional problems” who lie for “the attention and sympathy that they receive.”
Back to the subject of real and credible rapes, Susan Dominus works through her own experience with sexual assault, pondering why some victims don’t resist their attackers the “right” way and are made to feel shame for that:
In 1993, one year after I graduated from college, Katie Roiphe published an incendiary op-ed in The New York Times called “Date Rape’s Other Victim,” in which she suggested that the issue of sexual assault on campus was overblown, that some feminists were casting women as passive victims in need of protection. She offered one way I could look at what happened to me that evening: “There is a gray area in which one person’s rape may be another’s bad night,” she wrote. I was no ingénue, and had had “bad nights”; and yet the night of the red cup stood out as something significantly more troubling than that.
The language we use for a given experience inevitably defines how we feel about it. I could not land on language that felt right — to me —about that encounter. I still cannot. Struggling to find language to define that experience after the fact left me longing for more words that could have been used in the moment. What I wish I had had that night was a linguistic rip cord, something without the mundane familiarity of “no” or the intensity demanded in “Get off or I’ll scream.” … What if every kid on every college campus was given new language — a phrase whose meaning could not be mistaken, that signaled peril for both sides, that might be more easily uttered?
I have to dissent from the comparison of Sabrina Rubin Erdely to Stephen Glass and your and others’ assertion that the “real offenders” are “Rolling Stone, not Jackie.” The comparison to Glass is very specious. Glass fabricated stories himself. He was a liar. Erdely may have been sloppy and unprofessional. She should have interviewed Jackie’s friends and the accused men. She should have considered not printing the story after Jackie asked her not to do so. But the lie at the center of the story is not Erdely’s, it’s Jackie’s.
Jackie has told multiple versions of this lie to several people over the last two years, and continued to tell the lie as recently as last week (to the Washington Post), when the story was already beginning to unravel. She has defamed innocent men. The men were defamed to Erdely, to Jackie’s friends, to campus anti-rape activists, to the university administration, and ultimately to the world, now that the real names of at least some of the men have been published online.
I find it maddening that the media want to treat this sorry series of events as a story about bad journalism. This is a story about a young woman who fabricated a rape allegation, first to induce empathy from a boy she liked, and later (I guess) to fit in with or be a star among other anti-rape activists.
Jackie had several opportunities to shut all of this down. She could have avoided repeating the lie to her roommate two years ago. She could have declined to repeat the even more embellished lie to campus activists. She could have told the truth when Erdely initially approached her. She could have told the truth when she asked Erdely to not print the story. And finally, she could have told the truth when she was interviewed by the Post. But she just kept lying.
Contra Marcotte, whatever the nature of “vast majority” false reports of rape, I find it very difficult to believe that Jackie suffers from “serious psychological and emotional problems.” She lied with motive and purpose, repeatedly over the course of two years, and then stuck with the lie to save face. She lied without any regard to the way she was hurting other people.
When Erdely went to Charlottesville she did uncover an important story that goes something like this: Women on college campuses are sometimes raped. Colleges often do a very bad job of investigating alleged rapes and need to do better. But some of the rape allegations are false, which is why any investigation needs to be done professionally and with fairness to both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator. That is not the story Erdely told, and it is not the story being told in the media even now.
We still don’t know exactly what happened, despite Jackie’s dropping credibility. She very well could have been raped. According to one of her three key former friends, even now:
“She had very clearly just experienced a horrific trauma,” Randall said. “I had never seen anybody acting like she was on that night before, and I really hope I never have to again. . . . If she was acting on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, then she deserves an Oscar.”
Let’s see what else the WaPo reports and how the rewrite of the Rolling Stone piece pans out before making any final judgments.