Lying About Campus Rape Culture


Sabrina Rubin Erdely's nonapologyfor her discredited horror-fiction article “Rape on Campus” in Rolling Stone included a lot of me, me, poor little me and oh, how I'm suffering because I bravely made an understandable mistake nobly writing about the evils of rape; a lot of false allusions about rape; a fear that she frightened future real rape victims but absolutely no apology -- or even an acknowledgment -- of the fraternity and the members she truly harmed.

The past few months, since my Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus” was first called into question, have been among the most painful of my life. Reading the Columbia account of the mistakes and misjudgments in my reporting was a brutal and humbling experience. I want to offer my deepest apologies: to Rolling Stone’s readers, to my Rolling Stone editors and colleagues, to the U.V.A. community, and to any victims of sexual assault who may feel fearful as a result of my article.


I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.”

Teresa A. Sullivan, the president of the University of Virginia where the non-rape occurred, offered a similar disingenuous statement with little mention of the innocent fraternity she ordered closed or its equally innocent members whose lives she disrupted.

“Rolling Stone’s story, ‘A Rape on Campus,’ did nothing to combat sexual violence, and it damaged serious efforts to address the issue. Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia. Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed university staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored. (snip)

“Sexual violence is a serious issue for our society, and it requires the focus and attention of all in our communities.”

Except Erdely and Sullivan are not offering an accurate portrayal of rape in this country. According to a report from the government's Bureau of Justice Statistics

From 1995 to 2005, sexual violence against U.S. female residents age 12 or older declined 64 percent from 5.0 per 1,000 females to 1.8, and remained unchanged through 2010,

A few months ago Lynn Langdon, also of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, published "Rape and Sexual Assault Among College Age-Females-1995-2013" which further questioned the accepted rape narrative as expounded by Erdely and Sullivan. According to its findings, female students between the ages of 18-24 were significantly less likely to be raped than their non-student peers. While there were some similarities, student and non-student victims had other differences.


  • The rate of rape and sexual assault was 1.2 times higher for nonstudents (7.6 per 1,000) (italics added) than for students (6.1 per 1,000).

  • For both college students and nonstudents, the offender was known to the victim in about 80% of rape and sexual assault victimizations.

  • Most (51%) student rape and sexual assault victimizations occurred while the victim was pursuing leisure activities away from home, compared to nonstudents who were engaged in other activities at home (50%) when the victimization occurred.

Granted, given the reluctance of so many authentic sexual assault victims -- especially female students -- to report rape, the Bureau of Justice Statistics research papers with their statistics and analyses may be skewed and/or incomplete, which the authors readily admit. However, the picture of rape that emerges is rather different from the distorted one Erdely painted.

There is no acceptance of rape on college campuses -- there isn't even a rape epidemic on campus. Indeed, female students are relatively safer on campus than elsewhere and their male peers are probably less likely to rape them than outsiders who trespass on the campus.

Also, Erdely seems totally unconcerned that young women who are not students, who are usually poorer not only have a higher incidence of rape but are raped at home, usually by someone they know well. Apparently this doesn't advance her political class agenda of privileged, usually white males living in elite residences attacking helpless, vulnerable females.

Meanwhile, the fraternity remains closed, its members still under a cloud and their lives upended. But for the accusers, life rolls merrily along after hitting a slight bump. Erdely and Sullivan remain employed and Jackie, the phony gang rapee, is still unnamed, as it would undoubtedly be too traumatic for her to be publicly exposed as a liar and punished for the damage she caused. Rolling Stone continues to publish, having covered itself in glory by asking the Columbia Journalism Review to publicly slap them on the wrist. In other words, the innocent are being punished because of what they might have done given the opportunity while the guilty are continuing as before because their intentions were so honorable, their work so noble -- helping the thousands of female non-victims on college campuses across the nation not raped by evil, privileged fraternity boys. Indeed, in the near future Erdely, Sullivan, Jackie, and Rolling Stone will probably soon be seen as undeserving victims because their message was so politically correct.

Erdely, Rolling Stone and the University of Virginia’s Sullivan have harmed rape victims of all types with their self-righteousness in pushing their political agenda over facts.

Some of the fraternity members are talking of suing Erdely, Rolling Stone, and the University of Virginia. I hope they do, and I hope they win.

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