UVA fraternity 'exploring its legal options' over Rolling Stone's discredited gang rape article

University Virginia UVA Students Campus Phi Kappa Psi FraternityJay Paul/Getty ImagesStudents walk past the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on the University of Virginia campus.

The University of Virginia’s Phi Kappa Psi fraternity is considering legal action, after a police investigation¬†found there was no evidence to support a Rolling Stone article’s allegations that a student was gang-raped at that frat house.

“Phi Kappa Psi is now exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone — damage both to the chapter and its members and to the very cause upon which the magazine was focused,” UVA’s Phi Psi chapter said in a statement provided to Business Insider, which called the article “defamatory.”

Once questions began to emerge about Rolling Stone’s coverage of the fraternity — which relied on now-disproved statements from UVA student “Jackie” — there was some discussion of whether the fraternity would sue the magazine for defamation or libel. While the article didn’t name particular students, it did say Jackie was raped at the Phi Psi house.

In the article,¬†“A Rape on Campus,” Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely recounted Jackie’s story that she was gang raped at a Phi Psi fraternity party on Sept. 28, 2012. In the days following publication, Phi Psi put itself on voluntary suspension, while the house was vandalised with spray-painted graffiti reading “UVA Center for RAPE Studies” and “SUSPEND US!”

UVA Phi Kappa Psi president Stephen Scipione sent Business Insider the following statement Monday:

After a four-month-long investigation involving over 70 personal interviews and hundreds of police man hours, the Charlottesville Police Department today formally cleared the Virginia Alpha Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity of all sexual assault allegations stemming from a November 19, 2014 Rolling Stone article erroneously accusing Phi Kappa Psi of crimes its members did not commit. According to the report provided to media by the Department, “Having exhausted all investigative leads … there is no substantive basis to support the account alleged in the Rolling Stone article.”

In its controversial article, Rolling Stone recklessly and prejudicially thrust the brothers of Phi Kappa Psi into the center of a national debate on the topic of sexual assault on college campuses. When key elements of the story were revealed to be untrue, the magazine backed away from its support of the story, yet to this day the article remains posted on Rolling Stone’s website.

“These false accusations have been extremely damaging to our entire organisation, but we can only begin to imagine the setback this must have dealt to survivors of sexual assault,” said Stephen Scipione, President of the Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi. “We hope that Rolling Stone’s actions do not discourage any survivors from coming forward to seek the justice they deserve.”

Phi Psi has been quietly and actively collaborating with the Charlottesville Police throughout the investigation despite our belief that the story was untrue. Following the publication of the defamatory article, the chapter launched an extensive internal investigation, which quickly confirmed that the horrific events described in the Rolling Stone article did not occur.

Both the Virginia Alpha chapter and Phi Psi’s national organisation adhere to a strict zero tolerance policy in regards to sexual assault. Phi Psi is committed to sexual assault prevention through its support for and participation in organisations such as the student-led “One in Four,” and by requiring at initiation all new members take the “It’s on Us” pledge. The chapter was the first on Grounds to sign the updated Fraternal Organisation Agreement implementing new, stronger protocols to improve the safety of all students and our members remain committed to setting a positive example for the University and Charlottesville community.

Phi Kappa Psi is now exploring its legal options to address the extensive damage caused by Rolling Stone — damage both to the chapter and its members and to the very cause upon which the magazine was focused. We’d like to thank Chief Longo and his extremely professional staff for all their work and we are encouraged that the Department is continuing to investigate the multiple incidents of vandalism that occurred at our chapter house in the wake of the article’s publication. Finally, the chapter requests that all news media immediately cease the use of images of our fraternity house in conjunction with stories about or relating to the topic of sexual assault.

We have reached out to Rolling Stone for comment and will update with any statement we receive.

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