From the diaries…
We cannot be so eager to protect one segment of the population, at the expense of another, simply to prop up a narrative. This behavior not only assigns more worth to one side, regardless of evidence, but weakens claims of legitimate victims. Such is the case with the well-known University of Virginia rape accusation. While the alleged incident took place in 2012, the story “A Rape on Campus” didn’t appear in Rolling Stone until November 2014. After much speculation about the actual facts, and glaring credibility issues with the purported victim, the editor wrote a note of apology to readers. And that was that.
Until this week, when the following was released:
A four-month police investigation into an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia that Rolling Stone magazine described in graphic detail produced no evidence of the attack and was stymied by the accuser’s unwillingness to cooperate, authorities said Monday.
To be sure, it is a good thing that there is no evidence supporting the horrifically described experience. That much we can all agree on. However, the fact that the accuser, Jackie, was so unwilling to work with police, yet clearly eager to share her story with Rolling Stone is inexcusable. The pop culture-obsessed audience a magazine like that enjoys is more than willing to run with furthering the idea of rape culture. Stylized retellings of victimhood are shareable and scandalous in ways an evidence-free result from months of police investigation are not. From a New York Times article in December 2014:
But to some conservatives and critics of the news media, the Rolling Stone article underscored what they viewed as an overzealous movement to define and prosecute a national “rape culture” problem that is both politically infused and negligent of the rights of the accused.
In a society where claims of benevolent sexim and microaggression actually exist, questioning anyone claiming anything is seen more as an intrusion than an attempt to establish truth. When did we become so steeped in establishing a movement which sees a potential predator in every man and only prey in every woman? There should always be a thirst for the facts. Carefully weighing the realities of both the accused and accuser should be a priority, and it is unclear to me why such a concept is so unattractive. Then again, truth is not the goal behind this “rape culture” idea. This brand of empowering women means demonizing men at every chance and removing accountability for the sake of celebrated survival.
The (supposedly) investigative Rolling Stone article committed many journalistic mistakes in which, among many other things, the accused were not contacted. A review of the piece is forthcoming, and the author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, has been quiet on social media since the eyebrows began raising. The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was reinstated early this year, and with the police finding no evidence for the claim, things are slowly calming down. Though no evidence of an assault exists, evidence of damage to not just the reputation of a fraternity and an entire school, but to future, legitimate victims is more than apparent.
“These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organization, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault,” said Stephen Scipione, president of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. “We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”
The power a situation like this has on those in the immediate vicinity and those in society as a whole is immeasurable. It is easy to cause harm, but to remove an affect and continuing stigma is challenging. The evidence-free UVA “rape” should bother us all, but this week’s new conclusion will barely cause a ripple, because vindication is never as popular as initial victimhood.