Rolling Stone’s Failed Journalism Was A Slap In The Face To Rape Survivors

Rolling Stone fail

The mainstream media has already said volumes about the future of Rolling Stone’s UVA story as a case study of how not to cover a story in journalism classes. Few would dispute the numerous mistakes in fact checking and judgment associated with this story.

Rolling Stone deserves all the fall out it gets about its failed reporting. There will be reams of reporting will focus on ramifications to the reputations of UVA and the Fraternity named in the story. Far less attention will be paid to the ramifications to present and future survivors of rape.  Many will equate a discredited news story with a discredited claim that “Jackie” was raped.

The Fraternity Phi Kappa Psi will pursue “all available legal action” against Rolling Stone for the damage done to the fraternity’s reputation. Of course, this aspect of the story will get attention.

To add insult to injury, when Rolling Stone officially retracted the story, they blamed “Jackie”, the alleged victim. It’s the story they told Steve Coll who conducted the external investigation and they’re sticking to it.

Coll’s findings are blistering condemnation of multiple mistakes and errors in judgement on the part of everyone from the writer to multiple editors, a fact-check and possibly a lawyer.  Moreover, he makes it abundantly clear that none of this was “Jackie’s” fault.

This was despite Rolling Stone’s attempt to excuse its journalistic shortcomings because they were “too accommodating” of the alleged victim, “Jackie.” Even in their retraction, Rolling Stone tried to shift responsibility to Jackie.  Rolling Stone  didn’t get it when they ran the story and they don’t get it now.  Instead of advancing the very real issue that rape does happen on campus, Rolling Stone reinforced the fears that every rape victim has. First, that she won’t be believed and second that she will be blamed.

The tragedy is none of this proves, as is inferred, that “Jackie” lied about being raped.

This story was a gift to defenders of rape culture and to Republicans who claim that women lie about rape to get an abortion or to get even with a former lover or to hide their unbridled promiscuity from their parents.  Moreover, when we’re talking about “false reports” often the falsehood is not about if a rape occurred, but rather that she changes the circumstances, to make her story more sympathetic in a culture that inherently chooses to disbelieve victims of this violent crime.

You can bet that Republicans will point to the Rolling Stone story to “prove” that women lie about being raped.  The thing is, “Jackie” may very well have been raped. But like other survivors of rape, she is aware of the culture in which she lives. If the attacker was their partner, too many will claim that no really means yes.  If the rape survivor drank alcohol, took drugs or did something else that makes her an imperfect victim, she will alter or omit those facts because they can and do undermine the victim’s credibility.  Ironically, alcohol and drugs are used as a defense by the rapist.

We still live in a culture that blames the victim because she had a glass of wine, or wasn’t covered from head to toe, or she went to a party or went on a date.

In reality, we don’t know if Jackie was raped or not.  Only she (and knows that for sure. She, like other rape victims never made a police report.  Thanks to Rolling Stone, she and other rape victims are less likely to trust the media.

The only thing that was worse than Rolling Stone’s botched reporting is the slap in the face they gave to present and future rape survivors.  Instead of fully accepting responsibility for their failings, Rolling Stone blamed the alleged victim.

8 Replies to “Rolling Stone’s Failed Journalism Was A Slap In The Face To Rape Survivors”

  1. While I understand not wanting to blame the victim, in this case I think it’s safe to say that “Jackie” did indeed lie. It’s not that she changed her story, a couple of details that were missed here and there would be one thing but changing the name of the guy who allegedly raped her is another (said guy doesn’t exist) and even lying about his occupation. Straight up lying that 3 of her friends wouldn’t back her up is another thing altogether including lying about having conversation with them so that they won’t be interviewed.

    While Rolling Stone is ultimately at fault for not doing their job, “Jackie” isn’t necessarily innocent in all of this.

    That’s why it’s important to not assume anything and not to allow emotions to cloud judgment. If I was raped or falsely accused of rape I would want the truth to come out. We all should just admit that there is a bit of truth in both sides.

    Some men rape, some women lie about being rape there isn’t a majority on either side.

  2. I don’t know what the writer of that story was thinking. They did no investigative reporting while at the same time claiming to have published an investigative piece. There was no investigation.

    Rolling Stone did no favors to women with this piece and my guess is that the writer thought that’s exactly what she was doing.

    It is ironic that the writer says she took Jackie at her word because she didn’t want to victimize her further or come across as blaming her. Well, blaming her is exactly what they’re doing now.

    It was the journalistic failure of RS that led us down this road and they’ve done a disservice to the many men and women who are raped every day and face doubt, public officials who are reluctant to take them seriously, shaming, etc., when they come forward to report their rapes.

    RS deserves the coming lawsuit.

  3. The garbage that rape victims took on RS’s behalf from the rape apologists for supporting their story should allow us a class action suit against them. They failed us.

  4. Rolling Stone, its fact-checkers and THE AUTHOR OF THE ARTICLE should all be sued within an inch of their lives, by any and all who were harmed by their laziness.

    The magazine itself should go after the author of the article, its factchecking staff and relevant editorial staff with fire and sword. It should also make SERIOUS donations of money, time and services to a variety of organizations that deal with women’s issues specifically.

    And we all should be reminded of 2 things:

    1> Rape is a hate crime. and should be handled with care, sensitivity and intelligence. Outer-world aspects should be handled with intelligent, careful and efficient justice. And non-lionizing, non-generalizing institutional change.

    2> Accusation does NOT equal guilt; and drawing general conclusions from single cases just fosters fear, anger and hatred.

  5. Rolling Stone needs to stick to Music and Entertainment news! And besides how can you give any credence to a mag. that would feature Turd Nugget on their cover OR even give that POS even a single line of copy!? And as far as this debacle, I smell a vendetta surrounding this reporters views.

  6. Is this getting closer to the Sharia law?
    Blame and punish the victim as it is most likely her fault…and there are no witness to confirm her claim (no, because they were busy participating in the act)…

    Females in the USA, as soon as they realize that they have been raped:
    1. Do not shower, and go directly to the Emergency Room. The ER is obligated to fill a “Rape kit” provided to them by the local authorities, they will collect smears from all orifices & the samples will be protected as evidence. The ER will also collect the victim’s clothing for the forensic team to evaluate later. (if the clothing is wet, make sure it dries before it is stored away, otherwise it will mold and render useless. Will also test for STD’s
    2. call the police to make a report.
    3. Write down what you remember, names, places, keep a copy in a secure place. Share the info with the police.
    4. Contact the rape Advocate-support

  7. Over 100 colleges are being investigated for failure to handle rape cases fairly.. Nothing much has changed in the past 40 years. Many still have the same mindset. BLAME THE SLUTS. WHO ASKED FOR IT.

  8. Maranon,

    Your advice is well-intentioned, and would be the right course of action if rape victims were treated with fairness and dignity by the police, but as it is, the police only compound the crime, making reporting rape another nightmare on top of the first.
    Furthermore, while the collecting of evidence for rape kits is the right course of action, the fact is that literally thousands of rape kits sit in warehouses untouched by police, making their existence a travesty and giving victims a false hope that anybody will do anything about their case.
    It is hard to understand how the editors of RS can look at themselves in the mirror, knowing that their rag only increased the misery rape victims suffer, but the fact is that until the treatment of rape victims by police, defense attorneys and society at large changes, no amount of swabbing will bring rapists to justice.

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