Rolling Stone has clarified its apology over a story that had reported a female student was gang-raped at a University of Virginia fraternity, telling readers the mistakes were the magazine's fault, not the woman's.
That's a shift from the magazine's original note to readers, issued Friday. In that note, the magazine said of Jackie, the woman who said she had been gang-raped at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, that “Our trust in her was misplaced.” The updated note removes that line, which struck some critics as blaming the victim.
The magazine said it shouldn't have agreed to Jackie's request not to contact the men she accused of attacking her to get their side of the story, out of sensitivity to her.
“These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie,” wrote the magazine's managing editor, Will Dana. “We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.”
The decision not to contact the accused prompted criticism from other news organizations.
Last month's sensational story used Jackie's case as an example of what it called a culture of sexual violence hiding in plain sight at U.Va., one of the nation's leading public universities. The story claimed that too many people on the Charlottesville, Va., campus put protecting the school's image and their own reputations above seeking justice for sex crimes.
The allegations rocked the campus and elevated the issue of sexual assault, leading to protests and a suspension of fraternity activities.
Dana's updated message added some details calling into question the magazine's original story. He noted that Phi Kappa Psi has denied the assault, and said it didn't host an event on the night Jackie said she was raped. And Dana said Jackie is now unsure whether the man she accused of luring her into a room to be gang-raped by seven men, identified as “Drew,” was a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
“According to the Washington Post, ‘Drew’ actually belongs to a different fraternity and when contacted by the paper, he denied knowing Jackie,” Dana wrote in the new note. “Jackie told Rolling Stone that after she was assaulted, she ran into ‘Drew’ at a UVA pool where they both worked as lifeguards. In its statement, the Phi Psi says none of its members worked at the pool in the fall of 2012.”
Dana also cited the Post's account of several of Jackie's friends doubting her narrative, although Jackie told the Post she stood by the account she gave to Rolling Stone.
Rolling Stone didn't immediately respond Sunday when contacted by the Associated Press about when the clarification was issued.
Some advocates for rape victims have expressed concern that the magazine's backpedaling could lead to a setback in efforts to combat sexual assaults at U.Va. and other college campuses.