TNR’s Rebecca Traister: If you think that U.Va. rape didn’t happen, you don’t care about rape
It’s a frat house–so it had to be the scene of a premeditated gang rape
It’s ironic and telling, though, that Erdely’s doubters have blown up their suspicions well beyond the available evidence, calling her story a “hoax” and comparing it to the fabricated pieces published by Stephen Glass in The New Republic and other magazines. It’s a massive leap in logic to move from a reasonable journalistic critique of Erdely’s reporting and disclosure practices to writing, as former George journalist Richard Bradley does in his blog post, “I’m not convinced that this gang rape actually happened.” It is symptomatic of exactly the patterns of incredulity and easy dismissal of rape accusations that keep many assaulted women and men from ever bringing their stories to authorities or to the public.
The dismantling of Erdely’s story—both by anti-feminist agonistes and by those genuinely dismayed by possible journalistic error—would mean that Jackie’s story of being beaten and raped by seven fraternity brothers will be dismissed, and that the reading public will be permitted to slip back into the comforting conviction that stories like Jackie’s aren’t real, that rapes like that don’t happen, that our system works, and that, of course, bitches lie.
What we will all be allowed to happily forget is that there are plenty of real stories of rape: of violent rape, frat house rape, gang rape, date rape; that most rape accusers do not lie and that in fact it’s quite likely, statistically, that Jackie herself did not lie. But the most serious thing that we’ll be allowed to forget is the very point of Erdely’s story, whatever its strengths or flaws may be determined to be: The system does not work.
Hmm, maybe what the dismantling of that Rolling Stone gang-rape story actually shows is that the system does work.
Maybe Jackie didn’t lie “statistically,” but maybe she lied in fact–or she was operating under some strange delusions. Maybe that’s something that her friends and university officials quickly figured out. Maybe everyone except writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her editors thought there was something odd about a tale of getting violently raped for three solid hours on top of a broken glass table at a “fraternity initiation” party that no one could document ever took place at a time of year when fraternity initiations don’t take place–and then being advised by friends not to call the police. Maybe Erdely and her editors were a little too eager to paint fraternity houses as dens of violent premeditated crime to which innocent young women were lured after being carefully groomed that they neglected to ascertain any corroboration of Jackie’s story. Maybe it’s telling that the police aren’t investigating this two-year-old alleged multiple felony because no witness has yet come forward to file a complaint–not Jackie, not her friends, not anybody.
So, according to Rebecca Traister, “the reading public will be permitted to slip back into the comforting conviction that stories like Jackie’s aren’t real.”
Well, at least into the comforting conviction that Jackie’s story wasn’t real.
Posted by Charlotte Allen