Rolling Stone published the story of a girl “Jackie”. Shortly after publishing the story other publications with real journalists did some basic fact checking and the story fell apart. So many of the details where wrong that the whole account came into question.
Futrell, whom I almost never agree with wrote about this.
He made three points in the post that I agree with almost fully. These three points where the bulk of the post (aside from linking to other stories he found interesting)
1) After reluctantly speaking to journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Jackie asked to be removed from the story; Erdely and Rolling Stone refused to honor her wishes. Ultimately, Erderly and Rolling Stone are responsible for the story, and the story’s errors, not Jackie.
Very much Yes. I agree 100%. Jackie is a traumatized young lady, not a reporter with an obligation to factual accuracy. Jackie did nothing more than tell her story to a reporter. It was on the reporter and the publisher to fact check and verify. It is Rolling Stone and Erderly that are responsible for the errors, not Jackie. An inconsistent story full of errors and contradictions is what we should expect to hear from someone suffering PTSD after a severe trauma. It is not the survivors obligation to investigate what really happened, but the police and journalists duty to do so.
Even if Jackie was 100% behind the publishing of the story. She did NOTHING wrong. Even if Jackie was pushing for the piece to be published, not fighting it, Jackie would still be 100% innocent of any wrong doing for the errors in the story. It was on the author and the publisher to fact check, not Jackie.
2) Friends of Jackie report that in the Fall of 2012, after the night in which the assaults allegedly took place, she displayed many of the symptoms of someone who had been sexually assaulted, growing withdrawn and depressed and ultimately returning home before the term was over. I still think it’s very likely she did indeed suffer some sort of sexual assault.
Again I agree. The evidence isn’t a singular report from an individual but several independent reports from different angles that all support this conclusion. Jackie very likely did suffer some sort of severe physiological trauma. The reports of her actions and words are very consistent with an individual trying to recover from trauma. Though evidence that the trauma was sexual is a bit thin.
3) A right-wing “journalist” has doxxed Jackie, posting what he says is her real name and other personal details.
This “journalist” should be prosecuted for something. Jackie did nothing wrong and trying to further traumatize this young woman for the mistake of talking to the wrong journalist is simply sickening. Simply put the story here isn’t a traumatized individual had faulty memories of the trauma. The story is Bad journalism and the rush to punish innocent people over an accusation. The reporters that broke the story and it’s refutation knew what they needed to fact check. Jackie’s real name and other details are irrelevant to the story.
I felt the need to say this because Futrell so rarely gets anything correct. That he posted something I can actually support is worthy of recognition.
Now lets get into the actual issues. The big question this whole thing brings up is how much should we trust an individual reporting a highly traumatic event like rape. I’m seeing lots of people make really bad points trying to score points for their political agenda, and not really anyone really looking at the issue.
Trauma can and often does cloud and distort memories. Trauma with severe physiological affects like PTSD or dissociative states can completely rewrite memories to something that never even really happened. I have talked with combat vets about their scars. They have given me wildly different, not even remotely similar stories about how they got the same scars while attempting to give an accurate account each time. These vets are not trying to be dishonest with me, but their accounts can’t be held as truthful either. These faulty memories are not attempts at fraud, but a symptom of the trauma the suffered.
This is where believing victims is problematic. If we believe them that they suffered a trauma, then the fact that they suffered a trauma is very good reason to not accept what they say as true. People’s memories of trauma are at best cloudy and distorted and at worst complete fabrications. This is the source of most “false allegations”. Not the “Real Rape” of intentionally fraudulent allegations with the intent to punish the accused, but individuals with cloudy and distorted memories being pushed for details that are unreliable at best.
If we are to accept that the victim really is a victim, and we should, then we must also accept that the trauma makes their memories and accounts of the event unreliable. We need to not rush to punish based on these memories that we have strong reason to believe faulty. We need to reserve judgment until proper investigations can be completed and the facts of the events discovered.
If not we risk Doing What UVA did and punish hundreds of innocent people for events that they had no part in and probably didn’t even happen. Did Jackie suffer a severe trauma, YES. But as of now we don’t know what that trauma was. It seems unlikely that is was a gang rape at a fraternity, let alone an initiation right common to all fraternities justifying shutting them down.
This rush to vengeance does nothing to stop rapes on campus. Punishing the innocent does nothing to deter the guilty. For every man locked up wrongly convicted of rape, there is a rapist that got off Scot free.
When someone reports a trauma we should believe the trauma, and that means actively questioning their memories of the event. Because memories of trauma are at best unreliable cases of rape and sexual assault are the cases where due process and innocent until proven guilty are the most important. Policies and laws that erode these, like “Yes means Yes”, should be actively opposed. They do more to insure innocent men are locked up and rapist walk free than they do to help prosecute actual rapists.