Rolling Stone failure must not stop activism

Leigh Terry

Rolling Stone was careless. It was careless with its own reputation. It was careless with the reputation of its source. It was careless with the stories, struggles and experiences of thousands of assault survivors across 
the country.

And I am furious.

I am furious that Rolling Stone’s careless reporting and editorial process will strengthen the narrative that we have an epidemic of false rape reports and not an epidemic of rape. I am furious that Rolling Stone’s carelessness will allow The University of Virginia and its flawed culture when it comes to protecting the safety of its students off the hook. Ultimately, I’m furious because Rolling Stone’s failure to do their job as journalists has made the job of activists twice as hard.

I’ll take it upon myself to start rebuilding now. Around one in five women will be the target of an attempted or completed rape during their college years, according to a study by the U.S Department of Justice. Around one in 16 men will be as well. Victims are 4.1 times more likely than non-victims to have considered suicide and 13 times more likely to have attempted it, according to a study by the Medical University of South Carolina. Less than five percent of those attempted or completed assaults will be reported to university or law enforcement authorities. Two-thirds of rapists are repeat offenders, committing an average of six assaults each. False reports are estimated to occur in only two to eight percent of all cases, according to The Huffington Post.

You have likely heard most, if not all, of this before, but in order for there to be an impetus to action, it’s necessary to continuously remind members of the UA community that students are at risk. That risk continues regardless of the accuracy of one magazine’s story.

The struggle for safety continues at this campus and campuses across the country. Regardless of this story, students still need policies that make them feel safe reporting attacks against them. We still need administrators, faculty and staff members who are trained to identify students showing signs of trauma. We still need students trained and empowered to intervene to protect their peers, and we all need a better understanding of how these risks intensify for LGBTQ students and minorities.

Rolling Stone, in its attempt to catch readers and accompanying advertising dollars, betrayed the best interests of the students whose stories it was trying to tell. However, just because they let us down on this one source’s narrative doesn’t mean we have to let the broader story go. Activists across the gender spectrum will continue this struggle despite the setbacks this cause now faces. I hope this nightmare scenario will not lead other news organizations to be timid when taking on this issue, but that it will lead news organizations to investigate this issue while holding to the standards of responsible 
journalism. This crisis deserves nothing less.

Leigh Terry is a junior majoring in economics. Her 
column runs biweekly.