On Friday afternoon, Rolling Stone magazine issued a statement that it now found “discrepancies” in the story it published about campus rape at the University of Virginia. In their Dec. 4 issue, the magazine published an account from a UVA student who goes by “Jackie,” alleging that she was brutally gang-raped at a fraternity house at UVA in September of 2012. Now, Rolling Stone says that their “trust in her was misplaced” and that “In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account.”
The article had generated renewed interest worldwide in the campus sexual assault epidemic, and a promise from UVA President Teresa Sullivan to “get after” the problem. UVA had even temporarily suspended all fraternity activity on campus while they conducted their investigation. So, in light of the major impact Rolling Stone’s story had, many were shocked to find that the magazine was now admitting potential errors in the piece. In the immediate aftermath, Twitter was abuzz with reactions to the news.
On Twitter, many sexual assault prevention advocates urged people to focus their blame for the erroneous reporting on Rolling Stone, and not Jackie, the alleged victim in the story. Some advocates also argued that memory of details can be fuzzy after a person has experienced a traumatic situation. Supporters of “Jackie” also started the Twitter hashtag #IStandWithJackie, which received over 1,000 tweets within four hours since the story broke on Friday afternoon.
Other advocates urged readers to not lose sight of the fact campus sexual assault is still an issue that deserves serious attention and action. Many worried that the blowback from this revelation would make it that much more difficult for victims of sexual assault to come forward in the future, and that victims could be treated with much more skepticism as a result.