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What Rolling Stone’s Blockbuster UVA Rape Exposé Really Tells Us

November 26, 2014 in Blogs

By Andi Zeisler, Salon

It shouldn’t take a public shaming for a school to value the lives of rape survivors.

Rolling Stone’s Nov. 19 investigative report “A Rape on Campus” is one of the best articles I wish I’d never had to read. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s article, which opens with a breathtakingly cruel act of anonymous gang rape in a University of Virginia fraternity house, turned my stomach. As it unfolded into a litany of similar stories, most of which resulted in deliberate head-in-the-sand reactions on the part of the university, it made my temples pulse with secondhand anxiety. And as the ending revealed that, as of press time, no justice had been served on the part of women raped at UVA, I was furious.

And the story was exactly the bombshell it was intended to be. Within hours of its publication, current students and alumni wrote in to share their own stories of assault at UVA and echo Erdely’s portrait of institutional apathy. On Friday, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced that he had spoken with university officials and would be urging that a full investigation be carried out. University faculty spoke out strongly against administrative inaction on behalf of victims, and on Saturday organized a “Take Back the Party” rally that emphasized safety and consent for all students. Saturday was also when UVA president Teresa Sullivan suspended all campus fraternities until the beginning of the spring semester — at which time, her memo noted, there would be serious discussion and plans to address sexual violence on campus.

The spring semester, it’s worth noting, begins Jan. 9, so the suspension — amounting to about six weeks, the bulk of which is winter break — seems ornamental at best. And the rest of Sullivan’s posturing can’t help seeming deeply disingenuous in light of the portrait of her in “A Rape on Campus.” In it, she seems to suggest that having recently hosted the nation’s first-ever summit on sexual assault for college administrators equates with UVA itself being completely transparent about its own history of campus assaults. Yet, as Erdely notes, “her most …read more


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