Police in Charlottesville, Va., say they found no evidence to support claims by a woman who said she was gang raped at the University of Virginia in 2012 — an explosive allegation that gained national attention when it was reported by Rolling Stone last fall.
At a news conference Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo said the woman, identified as “Jackie” by the magazine, refused to cooperate with police in their investigation.
Longo said the case has been suspended, but he emphasized that it has not been closed.
“There is no substantive basis to conclude that what was reported in that article happened,” Longo said. “That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie.”
The Nov. 19 article (“A Rape on Campus”) — in which writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely detailed Jackie’s alleged brutal rape by seven men at a 2012 Phi Kappa Psi party during her freshman year — prompted the police to launch an investigation and the fraternity to voluntarily suspend its operations.
But shortly after it was published, questions were raised about Jackie’s account. Rolling Stone initially stood behind Erdely’s reporting. But in December, the magazine issued an apology, saying there were “discrepancies” in Jackie’s story.
“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,” Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana said in a statement. “We are taking this seriously and apologize to anyone who was affected by the story.”
Erdely, who promised Jackie she would not interview the alleged attackers, relied on the accounts of the alleged victim and her friends. Dana admitted that was a mistake.
“We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault,” he wrote, “and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.”
Rolling Stone later enlisted the Columbia University graduate school of journalism to conduct an independent review of its editorial process. That review will be published in April.
In an interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, Longo said the investigation was hampered by Jackie’s decision not to cooperate.
“We would’ve loved to have had Jackie come in ... and tell us what happened,” Longo said, “so we can obtain justice ... even if the facts were different.”
Ryan Duffin, a UVA student who was with Jackie the night of the attack, said that Jackie told him she was assaulted by five men — not seven — and that he urged her to report it.
“I wanted to go to the police immediately,” Duffin told Couric. “But she didn’t want to, so I and another friend just stay with her to make sure she’s OK.”
Duffin said that given Jackie’s condition the night of the alleged incident, “It’s difficult to think nothing happened.”
Alex Pinkleton, a UVA student and advocate for sexual assault victims, said that she came to doubt Jackie’s story — but not her pain.
“Regardless of the facts, the pain was real,” Pinkleton said. “I would not have supported her for that long if that wasn’t true.”
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