On November 19, Rolling Stone published a story about an alleged brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house. Springing into action, the university launched an investigation, suspended all fraternities and associated parties, and took actions to prevent such an occurance from happening again. On Friday, the magazine published a letter to readers telling them that the magazine had lost confidence in the story. They apologized, asserting, "We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story."
The original story alleged that a freshman named Jackie was invited by an upperclassman to a party at the the Phi Kappa Psi house in fall 2012, where seven men raped her over a three-hour period in a bedroom. That narrative became accepted, as well as the story's claim that:
... at UVA, rapes are kept quiet, both by students -- who brush off sexual assaults as regrettable but inevitable casualties of their cherished party culture -- and by an administration that critics say is less concerned with protecting students than it is with protecting its own reputation from scandal.
The stunned and humiliated university suspended all fraternities, called for the police to investigate, urged witnesses to speak out, and began looking at ways to change the school's sexual misconduct policy.
But in recent days, stories in both liberal and conservative media began to poke holes in the Rolling Stone report. Here was the magazine's admission on Friday:
To Our Readers:
Last month, Rolling Stone published a story titled "A Rape on Campus" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, which described a brutal gang rape of a woman named Jackie at a University of Virginia fraternity house; the university's failure to respond to this alleged assault – and the school's troubling history of indifference to many other instances of alleged sexual assaults. The story generated worldwide headlines and much soul-searching at UVA. University president Teresa Sullivan promised a full investigation and also to examine the way the school responds to sexual assault allegations.
Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie's story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone's editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie's credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie's account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.