UVA Rape Story Retracted: Has It Happened Before?

UVA (Brohammas)

UVA (Brohammas)

Last week, “Rolling Stone” released an investigative report on its now-infamous piece “A Rape on Campus.” The report, produced jointly with the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, delved into fact-checking the narrative. Ultimately, the investigation found many fact-checking and methodology errors (overall termed a “systematic failing”), and “Rolling Stone” retracted the piece.

I was interested to see if any other investigative journalism pieces, specifically on rape cases, had been retracted at any time. But I wasn’t able to find any. The closest things I could find were examples of victims later recanting their stories.

This has proven to be a first for the journalism world in that such an expansive feature (on such a timely, hot-button issue, no less) has been so thoroughly demolished by its fabrications. Though the story initially drew awareness to rape victims on college campuses, it ultimately ended up casting more negative light on the publication and journalist who covered it. Let’s hope that future journalists covering sexual assault stories will be scared into performing their due diligence to get all the facts right.

 

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How Many College Sexual Assault Investigations Have Been Suspended?

UVA Campus (Brohammas)

UVA Campus (Brohammas)

Yesterday, the Charlottesville, Virginia police announced that they’re suspending their investigation of the UVA fraternity rape allegations due to lack of evidence. After reviewing records and conducting 70 interviews, investigators were unable to find key witnesses or a statement that the assault occurred.

This leads to the obvious question: How many sexual assault investigations have been suspended?

I was specifically interested in the topic in the context of colleges and universities, and searched for that. I was unable to find any conclusive data, which makes sense, as I don’t think schools would be eager to give those numbers out.

The police did say they’re leaving the investigation open, and that it could resume in the future. But I’m sure there are even fewer statistics on re-opened college sexual assault cases.

 

UVA Sexual Assault: Rape Punishments on College Campuses

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

On Nov. 19, “Rolling Stone” published a harrowing article on a UVA student’s 2012 gang rape, and its eventual social and political fallout and complications around the campus. The article goes into depth in detailing UVA’s culture of avoiding the topic of sexual assault, and terming any assaults mere “bad experiences.”

The article cites UVA’s honor code culture that also functions to keep sexual assault quiet. It points out that 183 students have been expelled for violating the honor code since 1998, but there have been no expulsions resulting from reporting sexual assault (which is arguably more prevalent, from anecdotal data).

This isn’t just a UVA issue. Last year, Yale allowed five students guilty of “nonconsensual sex” to continue their education at the Ivy institution without suspension or expulsion. (The sixth one was suspended and future probation.) Instead, they were given punishments ranging from sensitivity training to a reprimand.

The “Rolling Stone” article notes that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college, but only 12% will report an assault to the police. So it’s clear that the actual numbers are much higher than those being reported. Hopefully, this UVA case will spur on more open discussions on sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, and urge universities to hand out heavier punishments for assailants.