Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic is Real, Even if the Rape Featured in Rolling Stone Turns Out Not to Be

Campus Sexual Assault Epidemic is Real, Even if the Rape Featured in Rolling Stone Turns Out Not to Be

By Adele Kimmel
Senior Attorney

I am pissed off.

It’s now clear that Rolling Stone failed to vet the facts in its explosive article describing Jackie’s gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, and the victim’s veracity is now being called into question.

I’m angry at Rolling Stone for failing to do its job. It distracts people from the all too real problem of campus sexual assault. And it may derail the momentum for change at UVA (and elsewhere) that started after the Rolling Stone article was published.

Don’t let this happen! Regardless of whether Jackie’s story is true (and it may be, as victims often forget details due to trauma), UVA and other colleges throughout this country need to do better when it comes to protecting women against sexual violence.

The White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault was formed for a reason: one in five women is sexually assaulted in college. Most often, it’s by someone she knows—and also most often, she doesn’t report what happened.

According to statistics published in Mother Jones, of the undergraduate women who are sexually assaulted in college: 34 percent are physically forced; 56 percent are under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and four percent are given drugs without their knowledge. And more than 25 percent of victims say their assailant was a fraternity member.

These are real statistics, involving real women whose sexual assaults were real. Get the picture? The epidemic is real, even if Jackie’s story isn’t.

And, if Jackie’s story is real, then shame on Rolling Stone for making us doubt her by failing to do its homework. Controversies like this drive rape survivors further underground. And they further perpetuate the myth that women often lie about being raped.

We can’t turn the tide against campus sexual assault if we dismiss the epidemic of campus sexual assault as myth. Some people will do this because of the Rolling Stone article. Don’t let them.

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