ROLLING Stone magazine has apologised for publishing an article documenting an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia (UVA) saying its trust in the source – the alleged victim – was “misplaced”.
Last month’s article detailed what the American magazine called a hidden culture of sexual violence at UVA and put a spotlight on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses.
The woman has been identified publicly only as “Jackie”.
In a statement on the magazine’s website on Friday, managing editor Will Dana said because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, Rolling Stone had agreed to honour her request not to contact the men she claimed attacked her.
Dana wrote: “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 the local and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.”
He continued: “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion 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.”
University president, Teresa Sullivan, has asked Charlottesville police to investigate the reported gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi house.
Sullivan said: “We remain committed to taking action as necessary to bring about meaningful cultural change in our university community.”
The school suspended activities at all campus fraternal organisations over the story.
Sexual assault has been the topic of seminars, discussions and rallies at UVA for more than a year, as some students and faculty members say college policies don’t go far enough to protect young women and to punish offenders.
Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe’s spokeswoman, Rachel Thomas, said he has asked for a full investigation.
The fraternity issued its own statement rejecting the woman’s account of a 28 September, 2012, party at the Phi Kappa Psi house.
She claimed she was led upstairs by her date, who then orchestrated her gang-rape by seven men. She said her date worked at the college pool, and she quit her job as a lifeguard to avoid him after the rape.
However, the fraternity said a 2012 list of employees at the Aquatic and Fitness Centre did not list any of its members as a lifeguard. It also said none of its members worked there at the time and no social event took place on the weekend of the alleged rape.