The burgeoning social scene which permeates the university years is known to include a variety of exploits. Among the rungs on this social ladder are alcoholic-fuelled soirées and exhaustive events seeking to usher in new converts to Greek life. This toxic mixture of youth and alcohol can lead not just to regrettable rendezvous, but most unfortunately, sexual assault. A November piece by Rolling Stone relayed a nightmarish crime of rape against “Jackie”, an 18-year-old student at the University of Virginia. The alleged gang rape took place at a party, involved a pitch black room, a shattered glass table, and three hours of sexual assault by fraternity brothers at the Phi Kappa Psi house, one of whom was reported to be Jackie’s date that night.
Quickly, scepticism regarding the incident grew and was shared publicly in The National Review, the LA Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post. Rape isn’t uncommon by any means, and especially not on college campuses. However, the story of Jackie being raped repeatedly on broken glass never included a hospital visit, reportedly because “friends” discouraged it, and the accused, whose existence is questionable anyway, were never contacted by Rolling Stone. Also, the fraternity denied the allegations for several key reasons, such as her alleged date was not even a part of that fraternity, and no party took place at the house that night. The Washington Post even reported: “A group of Jackie’s close friends, who are advocates at U-Va. for sex-assault awareness, said they believe that something traumatic happened to her, but they also have come to doubt her account.” The waves made by the story told solely from Jackie’s perspective, with not much in the way of evidence other than her own shaky retelling, led to Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana issuing an apology.
Immediately, another wave was made in reaction to the apology. One that questioned the very questioning of Jackie’s account. While many shook their head at the egregious error committed by Rolling Stone to print something so full of holes, others exclaimed that a reaction of disbelief at Jackie’s account was a worse error. Liberal blogger Melissa McEwan even had the audacity to tweet: “I can’t state this more emphatically: If Jackie’s story is partially or wholly untrue, it doesn’t validate the reasons for disbelieving her.” Suddenly lack of truth, whether in whole or in part, does not validate disbelief? If anything, statements like this, and Zerlina Maxwell’s piece, reveal more of the thirst to push an agenda rather than the resolution to seek truth.
Because sexual assault is such a personal theft in which damage is extreme, we owe it to victim(s), and the alleged victimiser(s), to thoroughly examine the facts. Feminists exclaim that we live in a rape culture. If so-called silence from men contributes to that kind of choking patriarchy, then women speaking with falsehood does just as much damage. Why are we so afraid to question the veracity of claim from those insisting they’re victims? Were each situation taken individually, and scrutinised – yes, scrutinised – for authenticity, then actual rape victims would own all the power in seeking true justice for the violently carried out wrongs against them. To some, fact checking equates to a rape apologist seeking to shame the accused when in fact, the pursuit of truth seeks to shame the one responsible for the crime. The perpetrator.
Suddenly, it is apparent that victimhood only need be stated to hold all weight against alleged attackers, regardless of the support of facts or apparent existence of any evidence. Living in a society where the shift has been made to “guilty until proven innocent” does a disservice to all. The Rolling Stone article, and the subsequent apology, does more to establish doubt toward those who claim rape than it does further awareness of this type of crime. The vitriol such an article would surely (and did) fuel may have seemed too tantalising to resist, and became its own dramatic evidence in support of the idea of “rape culture” propagated by feminists. Shame is a powerful emotion, and it should be so attached to rape that the thought of either forcing such an act on someone or falsely accusing someone of same brings similar revulsion. This is not to say that rape doesn’t occur, because it most certainly does. However, justifiable anger that women get raped is not justifiable reason to make unfounded accusations. Even in cases where wrongly accused men are exonerated, the taint of accusation remains.
I have no idea what actually happened to Jackie that night. The investigation into the claims continue, and hopefully the truth will be known. If true, the desire should be for swift and strong punishment against those involved. If false, Jackie should be held accountable, and the entire incident should be a clear deterrent to both falsely accuse and report, regardless of agenda. Living in a society where pursuit of truth is seen more as an affront to one than an indignity to all underlines that we need more shame. The shame that says stealing from someone physically is always unacceptable, and the shame that says falsely accusing another of such a violent theft is equally intolerable.