From the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence

Notes for Press Calls re the UVA sexual assault and the story in Rolling Stone

Trauma Response:

  • Cite Becky Campbell's research re: traumatic memories and difficulties remembering facts--she may well not have known who was a member of the frat. Sexual assault stories can hold up to fact-checking but survivors' stories cannot be judged on specific facts relating to some details given the nature of traumatic memories.
  • Additionally, when it comes to trauma survivors, we often see that there may be some lack of clarity of the details or temporary amnesia related to the events. If this girl got the date wrong, then sure, they can say that. The artifact of rape culture is that the fraternity said, "we didn't have a party that night” and that was enough to warrant a retraction of her account.

RS’s Retraction Reasoning:

  • Interviewing perpetrators isn't common practice, especially given the survivor didn't name a perpetrator. She named the fraternity. It is possible she was assaulted in that house by someone who isn't in that fraternity.
  • We are struggling with why the account of the alleged perpetrators (without any clear change in the evidence provided to RS) would warrant a retraction of the account of the victim.
  • Any fact-checking issues by RS cannot be blamed on the survivor.

Rape culture/the epidemic of SV:

  • Regardless of how this one story pans out, the epidemic nature of sexual assault cannot be underrated.
  • Considering clear examples such as sexual abuse in churches, in the military, on campuses, in prisons, we cannot get sidetracked by aberrations born out of fact-checking errors, survivor memory difficulties, or other problems.
  • Because they know they most likely will not be believed, rape survivors often do not come forward. And, also, because they often blame themselves for what happened (I shouldn't have gone to that party, shouldn't have flirted with him, shouldn't have worn that dress, etc.) they often do not come forward. When they do come forward, the majority of rapes go unprosecuted.

Statement to the general public:

  • We urge the general public to stay focused on our collective responsibility to address sexual assault and not fall into rape culture myths that deny the pervasiveness of this problem when we all know someone whose life has been irrevocably affected by this deeply entrenched societal problem.
  • We also urge people to remember that the woman featured in the RS story is NOT the only person to come forward with rape allegations against this fraternity AND is certainly not the only allegation ever waged against the school.

Monika Johnson Hostler
NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault Executive Director
811 Spring Forest, Suite 900 Raleigh, NC 27609

919-871-1015 (p)
919-871-5895 (f)