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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Phony Gang Rape Story at UVA?

Like you, the Mighty Whig is busy.  He can't follow closely every news story.  So, when he saw a few weeks ago that an article had been published about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity, and that the university had acted swiftly to investigate and to suspend the fraternity, he thought, sounds like I can move along from this one: nothing more to see here.

Not so fast!  It seems now that some journalists are starting to dig into this story, suspecting another media "feeding frenzy" driven by false, or potentially false information.  Hmmm, time to read the original source of the frenzy and figure this out.

Here's the Rolling Stone article: Rape on Campus   I read it, and now suspect it is a hatchet job against a great university.  The relevant facts:
  • The heart of it is about a girl "Jackie" who allegedly was gang raped by several men (boys?) at a frat party in September 2012. She supposedly is still trying to pursue justice, but she never went to the police and didn't approach the administration about the incident for months.
  • She was beaten up, cut with glass, and raped, but her female friends urged her not to complain. 
  • A dean in charge of investigating such complaints apparently slow-rolled the case.  The author of the piece suggests she part of a conspiracy of silence.
  • Throughout the piece we learn that the University of Virgina (UVA) is a place of privelege where frats rule, with lots of permissive drinking and exploitative sex, and with an antiquated honor code that urges students to snitch.
  • The piece brings up a lot of stories not necessarily relevant to this case, but meant to portray UVA in a negative light: like the lacrosse player who killed his girl friend and the medical worker who apparently killed a UVA student a few months ago.
Okay, a few of my objections:
  • The main case seems implausible.  A freshman girl raped at a party for three hours by numerous young men.  Nine of them, all of whom have no moral compass whatsoever.  None of whom has gone to the police and confessed.  No one heard anything.  There was no light in the room so she can't identify anyone.  The one person she can identify the author never interviews.  Supposedly this was an initiation ritual. In September?
  • She didn't report this for months.  Okay, I understand many women don't do that out of shame, or other reasons.  But many do report:  in fact tens of thousands do every year.  And the conviction rate is pretty high.  And why wouldn't any of her friends have reported it for her?  This was allegedly a horrible crime!
  • She didn't even go to the hospital afterwards.  Why not? 
  • No evidence that she told her parents.  (Didn't the author try to interview them?)  And she is still attending the university. Why on earth for?    Wouldn't a normal person want to leave, especially since her violators are still at large there?  Wouldn't her parents pull her out of there?  Wouldn't you??
  • Why didn't the author try to interview anyone besides the victim?  Why not anyone from the fraternity?
  • UVA is quite sensitive to sexual assault charges.   In 1993 or so, when I was enrolled there, I attended a town meeting on one that had allegedly occurred at a frat house back.  A young woman was accosed at a party and screamed.  That was enough to bring help to her.  The perpetrator (not a frat member) fled.  We had a big town hall over this event, with lots of hand wringing and accusations thrown around.  This was over a non-rape, by the way.
  • The author of the piece really lays it on thick against the culture of the university.  Well, here's a news flash for her:  lots of universities "party hardy."  Check out the Princeton guide for the top ones: UVA isn't one of them.  Lots have a fraternity system.  Usually the university administration looks for ways to punish them.  (Except in this case, it would seem.)  Lots of universities have honor codes.   And lots of young people are outside the frat system and don't think they are the "be all and end all."   Lots of universities have rich kids.  UVA isn't even closed to being a rich kid haven like some Virginia universities are. 
I have sympathy for the young woman.  Something tramatic may have happened to her. I hope she finds justice and healing.  I hope we learn the truth about this case.  And I truly hope this all hasn't been a giant smear campaign by another Rolling Stone journalist on the make.
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