Rolling Stone will reportedly retract their controversial feature on sexual assault at the University of Virginia Sunday night, replacing it with a review of the story by Columbia Journalism School.
Rolling Stone originally published their 9,000-word UVA article in November, but it quickly become the subject of significant criticism when it was revealed that writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely and the magazine’s editors did not reach out to key people involved in the story.
The Rolling Stone article prominently featured the story of UVA student “Jackie,” who claimed she was gang-raped during a date party on September 28, 2012, at the campus’ Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.
In the days following the story’s publication, several reports came out — most notably from The Washington Post — that appeared to contradict what Jackie told Rolling Stone.
Specifically, Jackie said that she was invited to the Phi Psi party by a UVA junior who she worked at the campus aquatic center. However, Phi Psi officials told The Washington Post that “no members of the fraternity were employed at the university’s Aquatic Fitness Center during that time frame … and that no member of the house matches the description detailed in the Rolling Stone account.”
The fraternity also said that they had not thrown a party that Saturday night, a claim that was verified by a Charlottesville, Virginia police investigation. Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo said in a press conference last month that the department had been unable to confirm any part of Jackie’s story.
Additionally, a group of Jackie’s friends who are mentioned using pseudonyms in the Rolling Stone story came out and denied many of the details she provided the magazine.
Three friends who were with Jackie the night she was allegedly raped all went on record in conversations with various media outlets, telling a very different version of the night’s events than what was originally presented by Rolling Stone writer Erdely, who they said never contacted them.
According to the friends, Jackie had told them she was going on a date that night with a UVA student named Haven Monahan, whom she had supposedly met in her chemistry class — not “Drew,” the pseudonym given in Rolling Stone to the purported Phi Psi member.
Monahan is also reportedly a different name than what Jackie told Rolling Stone.
The three students said they did see Jackie the night of September 28, 2012, finding her in a distressed state. However, although Jackie said in the Rolling Stone story that she had crashed through a glass table at the Phi Psi house, her friends said she did not have any physical injuries when they met her that night.
She told them that her date had led her upstairs during the party and forced her to perform oral sex on five other men, while Rolling Stone published Jackie was led upstairs by “Drew” and then gang raped by seven men.
Eventually, enough evidence was built up by outside media outlets that it led to questions of whether Monahan even existed.
“Jackie told her friends that Monahan dropped out of the university after the assault, but a university record check by CNN revealed that no one by that name ever attended the university. Another check found no one by that name in the United States,” CNN reported in December.
A separate search by Business Insider did not yield any matches in a public records database. There also appear to be no references to anyone named Haven Monahan online, except in reference to Jackie and ongoing investigation into Rolling Stone’s UVA story.
Jackie’s friends said they exchanged text messages with Monahan on multiple occasions, and received at least one email from a Yahoo account in his name.
The Washington Times reported that the friends were given three numbers for Monahan — a number supplied by Jackie that the students originally reached out to and was supposedly his personal mobile phone, a second number that he replied from and said was a friend’s phone, and a third number that he continued the conversation on and said was his BlackBerry.
According to The Times, all three of these numbers “were labelled as an ‘Internet Phone’ on a database background check.” This means that they were sent using “services that allow users to send SMS text messages from a computer or iPad without having a phone number,” The Times reports.
Additionally, The Washington Post confirmed that a photo supposedly of Monahan that the friends received from the BlackBerry number was actually a former classmate from Jackie’s high school, who “said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.”
As one friend told CNN, “There’s a very good chance whoever I was texting was Jackie … There’s a definite possibility.”
The UVA Phi Psi chapter is now considering taking legal action against Rolling Stone after being cleared by both the university and the local police.
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