How the Retracted Rolling Stone Article 'A Rape on Campus' Came to Print


On Nov. 19, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published an article titled “A Rape on Campus.” It was an explosive, 9,000-word account of alleged institutional indifference to sexual assault survivors and the mishandling of sexual assaults on college campuses.

The Rolling Stone article featured a young woman named “Jackie,” who was allegedly brutally gang-raped at a University of Virginia fraternity house weeks into her first year at school. The article was a viral bombshell that many thought portrayed the university and Nicole Eramo, the associate dean of students at the time who handled Jackie’s case, as examples of the “school reputation first” response some sexual assault survivors say they receive from college administrators. Eramo in particular said she was subjected to a barrage of hate from readers in the aftermath.

More than one in five female undergraduates said they had been victims of sexual assault or misconduct during their time at school, according to a survey conducted at 27 universities by The American Association of Universities. Many experts say these crimes are under-reported to university authorities or law enforcement.

The magazine exposé became the most read non-celebrity story in the 49-year history of Rolling Stone. But it would also prove to be a historic low-point for the magazine after Jackie’s story was called into question. The reporter of the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, was accused of flawed reporting in a furor that caused Erdely to go into hiding due to death threats.

Eramo and the fraternity in question have filed multi-million-dollar lawsuits against the magazine for defamation. Eramo’s trial started Monday.

Below -- through court records, depositions and interviews conducted by ABC News -- is an examination of how “A Rape on Campus” came to print.
PHOTO: Rotunda at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

How the ‘Rape on Campus’ Article Got Started

University of Virginia, a picturesque, top-tier university in Charlottesville, Virginia, was founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson. It's known to many as the "Ivy League of the South" and its famous alums include Robert F. Kennedy, Katie Couric and Tina Fey. The school has a large and vibrant Greek scene, with stately Georgian mansions housing fraternities and sororities.

In recent years, the university has dealt with several high-profile tragedies, including the murders of two female students. One was sophomore Hannah Graham, whose remains were found in 2014 about a month before the Rolling Stone article was published, and the other was Yardley Love, a senior lacrosse player who was beaten to death in 2010 by her ex-boyfriend, who was also a UVA lacrosse player.

Love’s death led to the formation of the One Love Foundation that year, which works to raise awareness about the warning signs of abuse and relationship violence.

The following summer, in June 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced it was launching an investigation into dozens of universities across the country, including UVA, for possible violations of federal Title IX law over the handling of sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints.

Freelance reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely started looking into writing a piece about rape at colleges and universities in 2012 and was searching for a case at a school to highlight sexual assaults on campus.

Erdely was a seasoned reporter with a number of high-profile articles, several of which explored the plight of sexual assault survivors. Aside from Rolling Stone, her work had appeared in GQ magazine, Self magazine, The New Yorker, Mother Jones, Glamour, Men’s Health and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

On Sept. 25, 2012, Erdely interviewed Title IX lawyer Wendy Murphy to get a feel for the landscape of sexual assaults on campus and how administrators handle these crimes. Under Title IX law and the federal Jeanne Clery Act, once an institution that receives federal funding knows or reasonably should know of a possible sexual assault, the administration is required to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate and offer information, options and resources. In addition, school officials are required to report serious incidents to law enforcement and share information about campus crimes reporting.

During their first interview, according to Erdely’s notes, Murphy criticized the handling of sexual assaults complaints at a number of elite universities, including UVA. Erdely’s notes mention that Murphy said UVA hadn’t expelled a student for sexual assault in the past 10 years and pointed out it was one of several schools under federal investigation.

The day after Erdely spoke with Murphy, Playboy magazine named UVA the No. 1 party school in the country.
PHOTO: A view of Saunders Hall on campus at the University of Virginia on Feb. 28, 2013 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The First Few Weeks Of the 2012 Fall Semester

“There is a ‘work hard, play hard’ culture at UVA that’s pretty pervasive,” alum Ryan Duffin told ABC News.

The 2012 fall semester had just started when the university received the Playboy honor and a group of four first-year students -- Duffin, Alex Stock, Kathryn Hendley, and a young women that ABC News, as Rolling Stone did, will refer to as “Jackie” -- were just beginning to form a bond.

“I was pretty much just looking for friends at the beginning,” Stock said. “And I met Kathryn and I met Ryan, and then through them I met Jackie."

"She seemed nice. She was very friendly, very outgoing. Easy to talk to,” he added about Jackie.

Stock said there was something else about Jackie that stuck out to him -- her way with words.

“She was a great storyteller,” he said. “She always told stories with a lot of detail and a lot of-- sort of specifics that made you feel like you were -- almost like you were there.”

Duffin said he met Jackie on his second day at UVA. According to him and Stock, Jackie soon made it known she had feelings for Duffin.

“Pretty quickly it became clear that she liked him,” Stock said.

“I did not want to date her,” Duffin told ABC News. “We did go on one date, because I figured, ‘If you're willing to ask, you should get a chance.’ But after that date I told her, you know, ‘Sorry -- I'd rather just keep this as friends.’”

Duffin said that conversation didn’t go well and Jackie seemed very upset. But soon he said she told him there was a new man in her life -- an older student who was a member of a fraternity.

“She said that there was somebody in her chemistry class who wanted to go on a date with her,” Duffin said. “She said his name was Haven Monahan.”

Jackie convinced Duffin and Stock to text with Haven because Duffin said she told him she was nervous about dating an upperclassman.

“I think she just wanted us to vet his character,” Duffin said.

In those text message exchanges, obtained by ABC News, Haven seemed to be smitten with Jackie.

“Ok Jackie is this super smart hot first year and I tried to talk to her on the first day of class but she blew me off so I thought it was no biggie,” Haven texted Ryan.

However, Haven also appeared to be frustrated because he felt like Jackie had her eye on someone else.

“Get this she said she likes some other 1st year guy who dosnt [sic] like her and turned her down but she wont [sic] date me cause she likes him,” Haven wrote, adding, “She said this kid is smart and funny and worth it.”

Duffin said he knew immediately that they were talking about him. Duffin said at one point Jackie seemed so desperate to get his attention that she told him she was suffering from a life-threatening illness.

“She said there was a copy of her will on file at Student Health,” Duffin said. “The measures become more and more desperate as time goes on.”

In text messages, Haven told Duffin that he was “heartless… to mess with someone whos [sic] sick.” He even said to Duffin that Jackie could die soon and that he "read her will and she left all her stuff to kids in Honduras."

Jackie had been involved in a Honduras humanitarian student group in high school.

On Sept. 28, 2012, Jackie's friends say she told them she and Haven were going on a date. Later that night, Duffin said he got a call from Jackie asking him to meet her near a first-year dorm, that “something happened.”

“She was sitting on a picnic table near some of the first-year dorms. She was crying. She's -- you know, was obviously really upset about something,” Duffin told ABC News.

Duffin said Jackie told him Haven had stopped at his frat house to pick something up.

“[Jackie said] Haven parked his car out in front of his fraternity house and said he had to run inside to grab something. He asked Jackie if she wanted to come along. She said, ‘Yes,’” Duffin told ABC News. “She said that once they got up to his bedroom … There were five other men waiting in the bedroom and Haven forced Jackie to perform oral sex on those five men.”

According to Duffin, Jackie didn’t want to go to police that night, so he called Stock and Hendley to meet them and talk about what happened.

“Ryan's right in front of that dorm with Jackie,” said Stock. “I go talk to Ryan and figure out what's going on, and he basically tells me that Jackie's been raped.”

Both Stock and Duffin told ABC News and said in their depositions that they encouraged Jackie to go to the police, but that Jackie didn’t want to. Duffin told ABC News it was because she didn’t want “to have to sit down in a police station and continually go over it, detail by detail.”

Hendley declined to speak with ABC News for this report, but said in a deposition for Eramo’s defamation lawsuit that she hung back at first to let Jackie talk to Stock and Duffin alone, and came over “maybe 30 minutes later” but Jackie “didn’t say anything” about what had happened.

“I never heard it directly from her,” Hendley said, adding it was Stock who told her later that Jackie had said she was forced to perform oral sex on “one or two" men.

Duffin and Stock said they accompanied Jackie to her dorm that night and slept on the floor to make sure she was OK.

Two days later, according to text messages between Duffin and Jackie, Jackie claimed Haven came to her to speak about the incident.

“Haven came by and apologized,” Jackie texted to Duffin.

Duffin texted back, asking if it “did any good” and Jackie responded: “Well he asked for a second chance and I said pfft [sic] no way but I told him I forgave him for what happened friday night and then he thanked me for not reporting him which made me feel weird but the bottom line is I'm bad at being angry at other people so all I can do is forgive them.”

Since Haven and Duffin had only ever spoken over text messages, Duffin said he wanted to confront him in person about what had happened to Jackie, but he couldn’t find him.

“I ran a search on UVA's student directory to try to find Haven Monahan. No results. From what I could turn up, there was no student at UVA named Haven Monahan. When I asked Jackie about it, she said that he had dropped out the week prior,” Duffin told ABC News.

Her friends said they continued to check on Jackie, but a few weeks later, Duffin said she started pressing him again for a relationship, and when he turned her down again, it essentially ended their friendship.

Duffin and Stock said they all drifted apart from Jackie soon after.

Jackie Reports Alleged Sexual Assault and Alleged Bottle-Throwing Incident

Jackie’s alleged sexual assault went unreported to police for several months. On May 20, 2013, Jackie met with then-UVA Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo after another associate dean referred Jackie because of poor grades, according to Eramo.

According to court documents, Jackie told Eramo at that meeting that she had been assaulted by several men at a UVA fraternity house. Eramo said Jackie did not name the fraternity house at that time. Eramo, in her deposition, said she laid out Jackie’s options, which included meeting with a police officer or going through the university’s Sexual Misconduct Board.

Eramo said she followed up with Jackie again a few times about her options and connected her with Emily Renda, a sexual assault survivor and a project coordinator for sexual misconduct prevention at the university.

Renda first connected with Jackie in October 2013, according to a deposition she gave for Eramo’s defamation lawsuit. A UVA alum, Renda said she had been sexually assaulted in 2010 during her freshman year and then later became involved with UVA’s One Less sexual assault survivor advocacy group.

Renda said in her deposition that at first Jackie told her “something bad had happened” to her freshman year and then Renda said Jackie told her later it had involved five assailants at Phi Kappa Psi. She was so taken with Jackie’s story, Renda said, that she later referenced it, using a different name, when she testified at a June 2014 hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

On April 21, 2014, Jackie was back in Eramo’s office, claiming four men had yelled at her and had thrown a glass bottle at her earlier that month at The Corner, an area of shops, bars and restaurants in downtown Charlottesville near campus, according to Charlottesville police.

Eramo brought in a Charlottesville police officer to meet with Jackie, who told the officer, with Eramo and a UVA campus officer present, that she had been sexually assaulted at the Phi Kappa Psi house in 2012. But the Charlottesville police said Jackie refused to provide any specific details about the alleged assault and "feared retaliation from the fraternity" if she went forward with a criminal investigation.

Jackie had been involved in sexual assault survivor advocacy programs on campus, including One Less.

During that meeting, Charlottesville police said Jackie also told Det. Jake Via four men at The Corner had yelled at her and she had been struck in the face by a glass bottle earlier that month.

Police said Jackie told the officer that she didn’t think she would recognize the man who threw the bottle if she saw him again. Jackie also told the officer she had a photo of the facial injury she sustained and showed it to the officer. Charlottesville police said the officer thought the injury in the photo, which is currently under court seal, seemed to show swelling above the right eye and an "apparent abrasion on the upper cheek."

According to police, Jackie claimed her roommate, a nursing student, had helped remove glass from her face after the alleged bottle-throwing incident. When interviewed by authorities, this roommate denied she removed glass from Jackie’s face and said she thought the abrasion on Jackie’s cheek looked like it came from a fall, according to police.

According to former Charlottesville police Chief Tim Longo, Det. Via did not believe Jackie’s facial injury was consistent with being struck by an object, but that it seemed more a scrape.

“I think the detective would say in his, based on his experience -- as an investigator having seen injuries of various types, it was one that was not consistent with blunt trauma,” Longo told ABC News.

On May 1, 2014, Via and Eramo met with Jackie again to discuss the alleged bottle-throwing incident and the alleged 2012 sexual assault. According to police, Jackie maintained she did not want to proceed with any investigation and didn’t offer any further information about what happened.

Sabrina Meets Jackie

Sabrina Rubin Erdely circled back with Title IX lawyer Wendy Murphy in May 2014 about going forward with her sexual assault on campus article. In Erdely’s notes, Murphy said that these universities encourage victims to go to counselors instead of a lawyer.

At the time, UVA was still under federal investigation for possible Title IX violations with the U.S. Dept. of Education, and Erdely put together a pitch to send to Rolling Stone’s editors. Her original pitch only mentioned UVA once and focused on an entirely different elite university.

“I’d like to examine sexual assault on college campuses: the various ways colleges have resisted involvement….and juke their stats to make their campuses look safer than they are,” Erdely wrote in her pitch, obtained by ABC News.

Erdely got the green light to continue.

On July 7, 2014, Erdely reached out to Emily Renda over email, saying she was looking to interview sexual assault survivors on campus for a story. According to Renda’s deposition, she directed Erdely to five women, all with very different stories.

One of the five women Renda suggested was Jackie.

“This may be a much darker side of this,” Renda told Erdely during an interview, according to Erdely’s reporting notes. “But one girl I worked with closely alleged she was gang raped in the fall, before rush, and the men who perpetrated it were young guys who were not yet members of the fraternity, and she remembers one of them saying to another, debating backing out, and another saying to him, ‘c’mon man don’t you want to be a brother.’ And obviously maybe her memory of it isn’t perfect.”

Jackie was getting ready to enter her third year at UVA by this time. On July 11, 2014, Jackie emailed Erdely saying she would be willing to share her story. Renda followed up with Erdely the next day in an email saying Jackie told her she would be willing to talk to Erdely about her alleged assault.

Erdely interviewed Jackie for the first time that week. By the time the article was published, Erdely had spent roughly 20 hours interviewing Jackie on six different occasions.

According to transcripts of the interview from Erdely’s notes, Jackie described her alleged assault in gruesome detail, saying she had been invited to a frat party by a male student who later led her upstairs into a dark room, where she was gang raped by seven men. She went on to say she had scars on her back from being pushed into a glass coffee table that shattered beneath her. She said she was punched in the face and had “a huge bruise… on the right side of my face right near my cheekbone” and that her “eye got black and blue.”

“One of them said ‘grab its mother----ing leg.’ As soon as they said it I knew they were going to rape [me],” Jackie told Erdely, according to Erdely’s notes. “I’ve watched enough ‘Law & Order: SVU’ to know that men who hate women see them as less than human. And I was so scared. I just remember thinking, ‘I hope they don’t kill me.’”

Erdely's notes say Jackie told her she was molested with a beer bottle, and claimed the alleged attack went on for more than three hours.

“I just remember getting up and my dress was soaked with blood and I couldn’t find my shoes,” she said, according to Erdely’s notes. “I called my friends and they were at another party and I was just crying incoherently, ‘Something bad happened, something bad happened, I need you to come and find me.’”

Erdley notes say that Jackie then proceeded to tell her that her friend, whom she only referred to as Ryan at that time, came to her rescue with two other friends.

“As soon as he saw me he said, ‘What did they do to you, what did they make you do?’ And I couldn’t even say it. I said, ‘Something bad,’” Jackie said, according to Erdley’s notes, adding that Ryan said he wanted to take her to the campus Women’s Center or the hospital, but the other two friends, whom she only referred to as Kathryn and Alex, didn’t want to.

“And my two other friends were like, ‘Is that such a good idea?’” Jackie told Erdely, according to her notes, "The other two friends were like, ‘This is one of the most well-known frat … her reputation will be shot for the next four years.’”

Jackie went on to slam Kathryn and Alex, saying Kathryn “had this idea that she would never be allowed into frat parties if I told people I had been raped at a frat,” according to Erdely's notes, and that she and Alex “just wanted to party all the time. They couldn’t deal with what being raped meant."

She went on to tell Erdely that she had met two other female students who she said also claimed they had been raped at Phi Kappa Psi.

Jackie told Erdely the alleged incident made her physically ill and depressed, and her grades slipped. Eventually, she said she had to leave school for a while.

At first, Jackie praised Associate Dean Nicole Eramo, and said Eramo reviewed her options with her after she reported the alleged rape. She said she often encouraged other students to report their sexual assaults to the dean, according to Erdely's notes.

But she then told Erdely that Eramo “didn’t seem that shocked” when she shared her story.

“She said, ‘Yeah, our school has such a rape problem, did you know people were calling it UV-r-Ape?’ Like UV little ‘r’ big ‘A’ little ‘pe,’” Jackie said, according to Erdely’s notes. “And the way she said it so nonchalantly was terrifying.”

She also told Erdely that she was harassed by “three boys” outside of a bar who threw a beer bottle at her face and gave her “a really nasty cut.”

“My roommate, she’s a nurse, she took the glass and everything out of it,” Jackie said, according to Erdely’s notes. “But I was terrified to leave my apartment after that.”

During one interview, Erdely asked Jackie if she knew about a woman named Liz Seccuro, a UVA alum who was raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in 1984 and published a best-selling book in 2011 about the incident called “Crash Into Me.”

In her book, Seccuro describes being drugged, dragged into a room and raped repeatedly when she was a 17-year-old freshman. Several crime dramas and the John Grisham novel “The Associate” have been based on Seccuro’s story.

“It was the same fraternity as Liz Seccuro,” Jackie told Erdely in one of their conversations, according to Erdely's notes. “I didn’t know that until I started telling other survivors and they were like, have you read ‘Crash Into Me’ by Liz Seccuro?”

“Holy s---, every hair on my arms is standing up,” Erdely told Jackie, according to her notes. “Seems like more than coincidence.”
A screen shot of an ABC News

Possible Red Flags in Jackie’s Story Before Publication

In a deposition she gave this past May for Eramo's defamation suit, Erdely said, “Jackie is a source who I came to trust greatly.”

“I completely believed her credibility,” Erdely continued in her deposition. “She told me that she told Dean [Nicole] Eramo everything and I believed her.”

Erdely’s notes obtained by ABC News indicate that Jackie’s story changed in several ways across the course of her interviews with Rolling Stone.

In their first conversation, Jackie told Erdely, that after the alleged attack, “I literally looked like I had just lived through the zombie apocalypse and nobody said anything.”

But during a later conversation, Erdely asked Jackie again about why her three friends had been so callous toward her and about the blood on her dress.

“It [the blood] wasn’t evident,” Jackie said, according to Erdely’s notes. “It was darker than the dress itself.”

She asked Jackie again about the scars on her back she claimed she got from the shattered glass table.

“They’re not as distinct anymore,” Jackie said in a later conversation. “I used to have these really distinct white marks where the glass had cut me.”

Erdely spoke to Rachel, Jackie’s former suitemate, who according to Erdely's notes mentioned that she had noticed scratches on Jackie’s arms and legs from her cats, and that Jackie had told her she had been forced to perform oral sex on the alleged attackers on the night in question.

“She told us that she was gang-raped, well, actually not what she said, [which] was this -- these guys forced her to do oral sex. That’s what she did at first,” Rachel told Erdely, according to her notes.

During her deposition, Erdely was asked if the fact that Jackie had told her it was seven men and Rachel had told her it was five men raised any red flags about Jackie’s story.

“No,” Erdely said. “I knew, prior to publication, that Jackie had originally -- when she originally talked about her assault, she talked about it as it being an oral assault by five different men… but Rachel told me, as Jackie became more comfortable with the details of her assault, she came forward with the truth, which was that it actually had been seven men and it was vaginal assault.”

In another exchange, according to Erdely's reporting notes, Erdely suggested to Jackie that it might help her move on if she confronted the male student she claimed brought her upstairs to the bedroom where the alleged attack took place, and Jackie told Erdely, “The thing is I don’t even know his name. You know, and so, like I mean, I see him everywhere and I have no clue what his name is, how old he is.”

But, according to Erdely’s notes, Jackie had previously told her they had worked together as lifeguards at the university pool.

“After the whole thing happened, I got my lifeguard shift changed so I didn’t have to see him but then he subbed in one day for someone else,” Jackie told Erdely, according to her notes. “He came into the guard room and he thanked me and said he had a great time.”

At another point, Jackie told Erdely about the alleged bottle-throwing incident and sent her a photo of what Jackie said was the injury to her cheek.

“It looked like paint,” Erdely said to her, according to her reporting notes. “It didn’t look like a bruise. Like, it looked like something had been smeared on your face.”

Erdely later said in her deposition that she thought the bruise looked authentic.

Jackie also shared with Erdely more than once that “Law & Order: SVU” is one of her favorite TV shows. In one exchange, she even said that one of the worst parts about what happened to her is that the show is now a trigger for her. According to Erdely’s notes, Jackie told her she was watching an episode with her dad that turned out to be about a girl who was gang-raped at a frat party and “no one believes her.”

“And I was, like, sobbing,” Jackie told Erdely, according to her notes. “I didn’t want to say, ‘Dad, turn it off,’ because my Dad didn’t really know the full story of what happened to me.”

According to court documents, Erdely asked Jackie several times to put her in touch with Ryan, the friend she said had come to her rescue the night of the alleged attack, and the other two friends, Alex and Kathryn, but Jackie kept deflecting the requests.

According to her deposition, Erdely said she asked Jackie for the full names and contact information for all three friends before publication but Jackie never followed through.

“She had made it clear that she was not on very good terms with any of them, particularly with Kathryn and Alex,” Erdely said in deposition, adding that Jackie told her Ryan did not want to be interviewed.

“Jackie, at that point, was a-- I took her as a very credible source,” she added. “And I took her at her word that he did not want to speak.”

Erdely said in her deposition that she asked Jackie a few times if she could speak to the alleged ringleader of the assault, but said she ultimately decided not to because Jackie “was so traumatized that she didn’t want to share her attacker’s name” and in fact, Erdely said Jackie never gave her a last name for the alleged ringleader -- given the pseudonym "Drew" in the article -- until after publication.

“At the very end, we did agree that... I was not going to contact Drew,” Erdely said in deposition.

According to her deposition, Erdely also repeatedly asked Jackie if she could interview the other female students Jackie said she knew had been raped at the UVA frats, according to her deposition, but she told Erdely she was having a hard time reaching them or getting them to talk about their experiences.

Erdely said Jackie forwarded “communications” Jackie said she had with two other women who were allegedly raped at the fraternity, though, Erdely admitted in deposition, “I did everything I could to get in touch with these women … but despite all my efforts, I was not able to.”

“I trusted her,” Erdely added. “[Jackie], at that point, had become a very credible source who I completely believed.”

Erdely’s notes indicated that Jackie went from praising Eramo for her support to telling Erdely she was upset that Eramo hadn’t done enough for her, that she had only done a “baby investigation” into the fraternity, that Eramo apparently told Jackie her job was to protect the university first and seemed to discourage her from going public with her alleged rape.

“I don’t want to get her in trouble for saying this, but she like looked at me very like solemnly and was like, ‘Well, who would want to send their daughter to a rape school?’” Jackie said in one exchange, according to Erdely’s notes.

She also told Erdely that Eramo said she had “heard through the grapevine” that some of the Phi Kappa Psi members she claimed were involved in her alleged assault had graduated, and therefore the university couldn’t go after them, according to Erdely’s notes.

“I was like, ‘They definitely aren’t graduated,’” Jackie said to Erdely, according to her notes. “I saw one riding his bike two weeks ago. … She said if you wanted to pursue a trial here people would have biased views, it would be difficult and I told her if I did seek any kind of trial it would have to be a criminal trial.”

Jackie did put Erdely in touch with her friend Alex Pinkleton, a UVA student and sexual assault survivor-turned-advocate. Pinkleton said that she was sexually assaulted at a party when she was a sophomore, though she never filed a formal complaint.

According to Erdely’s notes, Pinkleton praised the way Eramo handled her case. Later, Erdely noted that Jackie told her Pinkleton was “super excited” about being interviewed and was hoping her article “blows up in UVA’s face,” but then Erdely noted that Pinkleton herself, though candid about her experience, “wasn’t down on the administration at all.”

In another conversation, according to Erdely's notes, both Pinkleton and Jackie asked Erdely if Eramo was going to be included in the article because Jackie was worried about Eramo losing her job.

“We love Dean Eramo,” Jackie said, according to Erdely’s notes. “The problem’s not her, it’s people above her, they’re the problem and she just does what she can.”

Erdely did speak to multiple people who said they were not satisfied with the way UVA handled sexual assault complaints, her notes show. One of them was Liz Seccuro, whose story about being raped at UVA in the ‘80s was used in the article as an example to illustrate that the university has a long history of sexual assaults on campus.

In 2005, Seccuro said she received a letter of apology from one of her perpetrators and eventually got him prosecuted for his crime. He was convicted of aggravated sexual battery, making her a hero to sexual assault survivors.

Seccuro told ABC News that when Erdely interviewed her for the article, she was struck by the similarities between her and Jackie’s stories, especially that Jackie had claimed the incident had happened at the same frat house.

“When she [Erdely] told me about this young woman, Jackie and her experience … there was no way I couldn’t participate because it was my experience,” Seccuro said. “And for it to have happened in the same time frame, during a rush event ... I think Sabrina probably thought, ‘Oh my God, is this some sort of sick tradition?’”

Erdely did not interview Associate Dean Eramo for the Rolling Stone article. They made arrangements to meet for an interview on campus in September 2014 but the university canceled it at the last minute.

Erdely did interview UVA President Teresa Sullivan on Oct. 2, 2014. According to Erdely’s notes, Sullivan admitted in the interview that the university had a fraternity “under investigation” regarding sexual assault allegations and that the university had spoken with the national chapter of that fraternity, but that the university didn’t have names of specific individuals.

Erdely also questioned Sullivan about the process a rape survivor at UVA would go through if they shared their story with Eramo and whether the information would remain confidential. Sullivan told Erdely that if a student chose to share their story, it could be confidential for their “education record,” but it would “trigger a Title IX review” and that’s why Eramo couldn’t ensure confidentiality.

Elizabeth “Liz” Garber-Paul, a fact-checker at Rolling Stone who worked on the article, said she interviewed Jackie herself multiple times and that she found Jackie “to be an entirely credible source,” according to court documents. She said she confirmed the quotes from the critical voices used in the article, including Seccuro and attorney Wendy Murphy, and followed up with questions to President Sullivan’s office after Erdely’s interview with her.

When she interviewed Rachel, Alex Pinkleton, Sara Surface and Emily Renda, Garber-Paul said, “All confirmed to me that Jackie had told them in sum and substance the same basic story that Jackie had told Sabrina and me,” according to court documents.

But Garber-Paul told the Rolling Stone team before publication that several facts from Jackie’s story might need further corroboration.

“On November 3, 2014, when I began working on the Article, I asked Sabrina whether we had reached out for comment from ‘Tom,’ the pseudonym for 'Drew' in earlier drafts of the Article. Sabrina informed me that she had not obtained a comment from 'Tom,'" Garber-Paul said, according to court documents.

When asked during her deposition if she confirmed the quotes from any of Jackie’s alleged assailants used in the article or knew their names, Garber-Paul said “no.”

“This was all in a section that was coming from-- that was being presented as Jackie’s recollection of her sexual assault,” Garber-Paul said. “I asked Jackie about it. We were not able to locate the people who she [said] allegedly assaulted her, so I was not able to independently verify this.”

Garber-Paul said she did inquire why Erdely had not contacted Ryan Duffin, Alex Stock and Kathryn Hendley. She said Erdely told her that Jackie had said Duffin declined to be interviewed and Garber-Paul said she “was comfortable with that” answer because she, Erdely and former Rolling Stone editor Sean Woods believed Jackie “was credible.”

Garber-Paul also said in deposition that she did not know Alex Stock or Kathryn Hendley’s full names before publication, and that she knew Jackie had not given their contact information to Erdely.

“In retrospect this was a mistake,” Garber-Paul said, according to court documents. “But at the time of publication, we had no way of knowing that Ryan, Kathryn and Alex would have been willing to talk to us, nor did we know how consequential the information they possessed would ultimately turn out to be.”

Garber-Paul also flagged a “photo illustration” to accompany the article that included an image of Eramo. In one proof of the article before publication, Garber-Paul had included a handwritten note in red next to it that said, “Is this too mean?”

Garber-Paul said in deposition that she raised these concerns with Erdley and the Rolling Stone editors, but ultimately accepted their judgment that the article could be published as is. In the end, Garber-Paul thought the “photo illustration” of Eramo was fine to publish as well.
A screen shot of an ABC News
Several times before the Rolling Stone article was published, according to Erdely’s notes and emails, Jackie made it known she was nervous about sharing her story and made multiple requests to be taken out of the article.

In an email from Erdely to former Rolling Stone Editor Sean Woods dated Sept. 11, 2014, Erdely wrote that Jackie was “freaking out but now is totally back on board” because she was “afraid of being physically attacked on campus” for sharing her story.

Sara Surface, a fellow UVA student and co-selection chair for the campus sexual assault advocacy group One Less, left a message for Erdely on Sept. 30, 2014, saying Jackie had raised concerns about her personal safety because of the article, according to Erdely's notes. Erdely had also interviewed Surface for the Rolling Stone article.

Erdely had a lengthy conversation with Alex Pinkleton over a few days in late October about Jackie wanting to be taken out of the article, according to text messages obtained by ABC News. In one text message dated Oct. 23, 2014, Pinkleton told Erdely that Jackie was “thinking about pulling out entirely” from the article, that Jackie was “pretty overwhelmed” and “feels like she’s being pushed.”

The following day, Erdely and Pinkleton exchanged more text messages, with Erdely writing, “I need to be clear about this: there’s no pulling the plug at this point -- the article is moving forward. & I think it’s important that Jackie stay involved.”

Erdely sent Jackie an email that day saying, “I know you’re in distress right now… you’re about to make a difference.”

Erdely also emailed Woods to say that “Jackie is apparently in full freakout mode right now.”

“Her friend Alex texted to say that Jackie is right now saying she wants her name out of the piece and is ‘thinking of pulling out entirely,’” Erdely wrote to Woods.

Erdely mentioned in that email that Jackie had seemed “optimistic” about the story the last time she spoke to her, “but then I brought up contacting that guy and I guess she fell apart?”

On Nov. 3, 2014, Erdely texted Pinkleton to say, “I talked to Jackie just now & everything’s fine THANK GOD. She seems excited about the article so I’m glad.”

That same day, text messages obtained by ABC News show that Pinkleton asked Erdely if she spoke to Jackie again about contacting the alleged ringleader she claimed led her into the bedroom where the sexual assault took place.

“Yes,” Erdely texted back. “Since it’s causing her so much distress I’m just letting that go, but will have to mention it in the article. But I’m presenting it as insight into how traumatized she is. So hopefully that will win readers over.”
VIDEO: Rolling Stone Retracts UVA Sexual Assault Story

The Bombshell Drops

On Nov. 19, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published the explosive “A Rape on Campus” article online.

The Rolling Stone article starts off with the story of “Jackie,” who describes being asked out by “Drew,” an attractive junior she met while they were both working as lifeguards at the university pool. Drew invites her to dinner and a “date function” at his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi.

During the party, the article says, Drew invites Jackie upstairs into a pitch-black room. After she enters, she screams when she realizes they are not alone and a body barrels into her, tripping her backward into a low glass coffee table, and the glass shatters. She tries to scream, but a hand covers her face. She bites it, and is punched. With shards of glass digging into her back, Jackie says her assailants refer to her as “it.” Jackie says she is then pinned down as seven men take turns raping her over the next three hours while “Drew” and another man look on.

In the article, “Jackie” says she loses consciousness and comes to after 3 a.m. She runs from the frat house, shoe-less, with her “face beaten” and her dress “splattered with blood.” She calls a friend and screams at him to come meet her.

Three friends go to meet Jackie. In the article, Ryan Duffin is given the pseudonym “Randall,” Alex Stock is “Andy” and Kathryn Hendley is “Cindy.” The article says Randall suggests going to the police or the hospital, while the other two shoot down the idea because of social implications.

“Is that such a good idea?” the article states Jackie recalls Cindy asking. “Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.”

Andy says he and Randall were planning to rush fraternities and that they ought to think this through.

“She’s going to be the girl who cried ‘rape,’” the article says Jackie heard Cindy say, “And we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”

Then the article says that one Friday night Cindy hears Jackie crying and asks, “Why didn’t you have fun with it? A bunch of hot Phi Psi guys?”

The article says Jackie would later see Drew at the pool where they both worked as lifeguards and he says to her, “I want to thank you for the other night. I had a great time.”

The article goes on to say Jackie reported the alleged rape to Associate Dean Nicole Eramo and was given several options: file a criminal complaint with the police, file a complaint with the school’s Sexual Misconduct Board, have a “formal resolution” with a jury of students and faculty, or face her attackers with Eramo present to tell them how she feels. The article says in May 2014, Jackie, described with “a bruise still mottling her face,” goes back to Eramo’s office to tell her about the alleged bottle-throwing incident and to inform her that she knew of two other female students who said they had been raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house, but Jackie says Eramo gave a “non-reaction.”

Jackie says she once asked Eramo why assaults at UVA weren’t being reported on the university’s website, and she says Eramo answered, “Because no one wants to send their daughter to a rape school.”

The article describes a horrific culture of sexual violence on college campuses across the country, but focuses heavily on UVA, citing Liz Seccuro’s story from the ‘80s.

The article made a point of saying Jackie is no longer friends with Randall, who “citing his loyalty to his own frat, declined to be interviewed” by Rolling Stone.

Emily Renda, Sara Surface and Alex Pinkleton said in their depositions for Eramo's defamation lawsuit that the three of them got together with Jackie to read the article when it was published and Renda read the story aloud to the group. The women said in depositions it was the first time they had heard many of the specific details of Jackie’s story.

On the day the article came out, Liz Seccuro said she got a phone call from Erdely.

“I’ll never forget it,” Seccuro told ABC News. “She said, ‘I think we’ve got something great here.’ I said, ‘I’m really proud of you.’ I said … ‘How’s Jackie doing?’ and she said, ‘I think she’s really nervous. But I think she’s really excited to get her story out there.’”
PHOTO: Protestors carry signs and chant slogans in front of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia on Nov. 22, 2014 in Charlottesville, Va.
The article was an absolute bombshell that immediately tore apart the UVA campus and set off a nationwide firestorm.

UVA President Teresa Sullivan immediately suspended all Greek organizations and asked the Charlottesville police to investigate Jackie’s story, using students, faculty and alumni to weigh in as the university reformed its sexual assault policies.

Erdely became a rock star. On her publicity tour, she continued to suggest that Associate Dean Eramo acted nonchalant about Jackie’s story and that she seemed more concerned with the university’s reputation than the safety of its students.

Hashtags like “#IStandWithJackie” sprang up on Facebook, YikYak and other social media platforms. Protests abounded. Vandals painted “UVA Center For Rape Studies” on the side of the Phi Kappa Psi house and rocks were thrown through their windows.

The Rolling Stone "A Rape on Campus" article became the most read non-celebrity story in the 49-year history of the magazine.

Ex-UVA Dean Nicole Eramo Speaks Out on Retracted Rolling Stone Article

Former Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo said she was made out to be Public Enemy No. 1 and in the aftermath of the article.

In the first interview she has given since the article was published, Eramo shared with ABC News what she said is a tame selection of the onslaught of hate she received after the article was published.

“Dear Nicole Eramo, the Dean of Rape,” says one message.

“I really hope that enterprising U.S. attorney finds a way to throw you in prison,” says another.

And another says, “God will have his day with you and hold you accountable … you are a despicable human being.

“It just kept coming over and over again,” Eramo told ABC News. “And that’s when I just thought, ‘What am I going to do? There’s no way out of this.’ And that’s hard. It was very hard.”

As former the associate dean of students, Eramo, a UVA alum, was also the chair of UVA’s Sexual Misconduct Board and on the frontlines of dealing with those who claim to have been sexually assaulted on campus.

She said she believes she was doing a good job and, as evidence, points to the fact that the number of students she counseled went up year after year, something she said she was proud of because it meant more students were coming forward.

“In 2006, I probably saw a handful of cases, and then by 2014 I know I had about 38 to 40 just sexual assault cases,” she said. “We know it’s an incredibly underreported crime and so to have people feeling comfortable enough to come in and talk to me about it -- we couldn’t do anything about things we didn’t know about.”

One of those cases, Eramo said, was in fact Jackie’s. But when she read Jackie’s account in the Rolling Stone article, it was still a shock.

“My heart sunk,” she said. “It was very different from what I knew of the story. So I was very confused at first, like ‘Why wouldn’t she tell me,’ you know? ‘Why would she provide all this information and not provide it to me and let me help her?’ So that was kind of my first reaction.”

Eramo said the way her support of Jackie was portrayed was very misleading.

“It portrayed her as a callous, indifferent administrator who became a false friend of Jackie in order to coddle her into not reporting her sexual assault beyond the bounds of Dean Eramo’s office,” said Libby Locke, one of Eramo’s lawyers.

In talking with ABC News, Eramo said she could not discuss her interactions with Jackie beyond what was contained in court documents for her defamation lawsuit against the magazine in order to not violate FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) laws.

Eramo was not interviewed for the article and said the school wouldn’t allow her to be. Nevertheless, she was mentioned 31 times.

“They made it look like I used the trust of, yeah, women to cover up rapes,” she said. “And that was so far from anything I would ever do. It was just unbelievable to me.”

Eramo adamantly denied ever saying, “Nobody wants to send their daughter to a rape school,” and said she would never make a statement like that to an alleged sexual assault survivor. When asked if Jackie made that statement up, Eramo said, “I can’t say, but I know I didn’t say it.”

In regards to claims made in the article that Jackie told Eramo about two other alleged survivors who she said had been sexually assaulted at Phi Kappa Psi, Eramo said she never spoke with those alleged survivors. At this point, Eramo said she doesn’t believe they existed.

Despite her issues with the accuracy of the Rolling Stone article, Eramo said her hands were tied from speaking out at the time because of privacy laws and she said she couldn’t defend herself.

“I can’t speak to the specifics of my interactions with students,” she said. “There was nothing I could do to speak what I knew wasn’t accurate … and that was really difficult.”

Eramo said she was scared after the article was published and thought she was going to be fired.

“And I just didn’t know if I could do it, honestly,” she said. “I went to work every day and I tried to do it, but I wasn’t sure I could do it.”

Eramo is still employed by the university but she is no longer the associate dean of students.

“I now work in the vice president for student affairs’ office for …planning and other more administrative -- more of an administrative role,” she said. “So I don't work with students as often… it's been a very difficult adjustment to be in a different role and not -- not have the privilege to be with students in that time of need.”
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Jackie’s Story Begins to Crumble

Some of the readers who were most shocked by Jackie’s story were the three friends who were with her after the alleged attack -- Alex Stock, Ryan Duffin and Kathryn Hendley.

“There were all these horrible quotes attributed to me about, you know, ‘Quit being a baby,’ and ‘We want to get into a fraternity so stop whining,’” Stock told ABC News. “And I was thinking, ‘I didn’t say any of that.’”

“That conversation never happened,” Duffin added. “We wanted her to go to authorities.”

Duffin told ABC News that if Rolling Stone had contacted him about Jackie’s story, which it did not do before publication, he would have told the magazine, “the story as I was told it by Jackie,” which was, “a version of the story inconsistent with what was published in the article.”

One of those inconsistencies, Duffin said, was that when he saw Jackie the night of the alleged attack, she didn’t look like she had been physically harmed in any way and that he would have noticed if her clothes had been torn and bloody.

Another discrepancy was that Jackie told Duffin and Stock that there had been five alleged attackers, not seven. She also offered her friends the name of the student who she said led her to the bedroom at the party, which she had declined to tell Erdely before publication.

On Nov. 24, 2014, two days after the Rolling Stone article was published, Richard Bradley, a former George magazine editor who was duped by Stephen Glass, a former journalist who became infamous for fabricating stories, published an essay questioning the legitimacy of the Rolling Stone article.

He wrote that the Glass incident taught him that you should be “critical, in the best sense of that word” about stories that confirm your own biases. As a former editor, Bradley wrote that “something about this story doesn’t feel right,” noting that it relied entirely on one unnamed source.

Others began to question Jackie’s account and how it was reported. Libertarian magazine’s Robby Soave wondered if the story was a “gigantic hoax.” Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg compared it to two notorious rape accusations that were proven false, saying “the media also uncritically reported Tawana Brawley's stories and those of the accusers of the Duke lacrosse team -- until the rest of the media started doing their jobs.”

T. Rees Shapiro, the education beat reporter for The Washington Post, had been in Charlottesville for six weeks covering another story when the Rolling Stone article came out.

“A lot of the feeling that I got at the time was … ‘How come we are totally blindsided by this report out of Rolling Stone, a national outlet that has no connection with Charlottesville whatsoever?’” Shapiro told ABC News, adding that he felt at the time like he had missed something.

“It was one of the biggest stories to ever hit a college campus, ever,” he said.

Shapiro headed back to Charlottesville and started talking to students on campus “to get to the bottom of the story,” he said.

On Nov. 28, 2014, four days after the Rolling Stone article was published, Erdely did an interview with The Washington Post in which she described her reporting methods. She said after deciding to write about sexual assault on campus, she spent six weeks talking to students across the country and eventually settled on UVA.

“She [Jackie] was absolutely bursting to tell this story,” Erdely told The Post. “I could not believe how it poured out of her in one long narrative. She spoke so fast, I hardly had a chance to ask her a question. She was dying to share it.”

Erdely also appeared on Slate’s DoubleX Gabfest podcast and was asked if she knew the alleged attackers’ identities or had tried to contact them. Erdely told Slate she reached out to the alleged attackers in multiple ways, but they were hard to get in touch with because the fraternity’s contact page was “pretty outdated.”

“I wound up getting in touch with their local president, who sent me an email, and then I talked with their sort of, their national guy, who’s kind of their national crisis manager,” Erdely told Slate. “They were both helpful in their own way, I guess.”

Shapiro at The Post told ABC News he found and spoke to Jackie herself in December 2014. He said he found her “extremely intelligent” and “gently mannered.”

“She wasn’t afraid to be in public either,” he said. “At that point, everybody it seemed in the nation knew… of her story. And she didn’t shy away from me. She didn’t also shy away from any question that I asked.”

He said she stuck to the same story she told Rolling Stone.

“I went to my editor and I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve spoken with her and I feel like we have a really good interview here,’” Shapiro told ABC News. “And he perfectly said, ‘Well, now it’s our turn to get to the truth of the matter too,’ and that we need to find the people who allegedly assaulted her.”

Shapiro said he started searching for Jackie’s alleged attackers on campus but couldn’t find them or the man referred to in the Rolling Stone article as Drew.

Sara Surface and Alex Pinkleton said in their depositions for Eramo's lawsuit that that after the Rolling Stone story was published, Jackie told them what she claimed to be Drew’s real name. They said they searched for him on Facebook and in public records about alumni, but couldn’t find any member of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity by that name.

Surface testified in a deposition that this was when she started to have doubts about Jackie’s story. Pinkleton testified in a deposition that she had her “hesitations” about Jackie’s story before the article was published and that Jackie had “spread rumors about other students at UVA that were false.”

Meanwhile, as criticism of the article was rising, Erdely went back to Jackie to try to get information she hadn’t been able to obtain before publication. In her reporting notes, Erdely wrote when she spoke to Jackie on Nov. 26, 2014, about a week after the article came out, Erdely told her she was “still uncomfortable not knowing the name of her [Jackie’s] alleged assailant” and this time she asked Jackie to spell the name for her, which Jackie did, but Erdely wrote that Jackie said she wasn’t sure of the spelling.

Erdely went on to write that she ran the name Jackie gave her “through the UVa people search, [and] there is someone by that name who is a UVa grad and now a grad student. A quick Google search turns up nothing.” Erdely also put in her reporting notes that she found it “odd that she [Jackie] doesn’t know the name of her attacker.”

“Jackie was always so detailed and definite about all the things that she knew. And if she didn’t know something, then she would tell me so,” Erdely said in deposition. “So this just seemed-- it seemed strange.”
ABC News

Rolling Stone and Jackie Go on Defense

On Dec. 1, 2014, former Rolling Stone editor Sean Woods, who edited the article, admitted to The Washington Post that the magazine did not talk to the alleged assailants in Jackie’s story. “We could not reach them,” he said, but added that, “we verified their existence,” in part by talking to Jackie’s friends. “I’m satisfied that these guys exist and are real. We knew who they were.”

The following day, Slate posted an article in which Woods told them he was “done talking about the story” and sent a statement from Rolling Stone that read, in part, “Through our extensive reporting and fact-checking, we found Jackie to be entirely credible and courageous and we are proud to have given her disturbing story the attention it deserves.”

Alex Pinkleton testified in deposition that she and Sara Surface met with T. Rees Shapiro from The Post on Dec. 4, 2014, to talk about discrepancies they found in Jackie’s story. Pinkleton, Surface and Emily Renda then met with Jackie to tell her The Washington Post was going to publish an article the next day that went after her story, according to Pinkleton and Renda’s testimony.

Pinkleton testified in a deposition that a university-affiliated counselor was also there with them. She told Vanity Fair in a 2015 interview that the counselor was there “because we didn’t want mental-breakdown suicide going on.”

Jackie then met with Shapiro that same night for a second interview and again stuck to her story.

Meanwhile, According to Erdely’s reporting notes, she spoke to Jackie on the phone around 12:30 a.m. the morning of Dec. 5, 2014, after getting a text from Jackie saying Phi Kappa Psi was going to put out a statement about the article. Jackie then told Erdely that The Washington Post was coming out with an article saying the fraternity was denying everything and she now had “no idea” whether her alleged attacker was in Phi Kappa Psi or not, according to Erdely’s notes. The notes also mentioned that Jackie was interviewed by Charlottesville Police but declined to make a statement, calling the process, “intimidating.”

Both Surface and Pinkleton testified in deposition that they spoke to Erdely on the phone that week and told her they had confronted Jackie about who “Drew” was, but they couldn’t get a straight answer from her.

Erdely herself sent an email to her editors at 7:34 a.m., on Dec. 5, 2014, obtained by ABC News, with the subject line, “our worst nightmare.”

“We’re going to have to run a retraction,” Erdely’s email said. “I just got off the phone with Jackie and her friend Alex; neither I nor Alex find Jackie credible any longer.”

“I’ve been trying to verify the identity of her assailant, and when I asked her for help, it spiraled into confusion. By the time we ended our conversation, I felt nearly certain that she was not being truthful,” the email continued. “I’m not saying that Jackie wasn’t raped in that house, or on that night. However, Jackie isn’t credible… We have to issue a retraction.”

That same day, The Washington Post published its story raising major questions about the Rolling Stone article.

The Post reported that Jackie said that she asked Erdely to be taken out of the article at one point, but Erdely refused and said the article was going forward. Jackie also said that she didn’t know if her attacker actually was a member of Phi Kappa Psi, but that she knew the attack took place in that fraternity house because a year after the attack, “my friend pointed out the building to me and said that’s where it happened.”

“I never asked for this” attention, she added. “What bothers me is that so many people act like it didn't happen. It's my life. I have had to live with the fact that it happened -- every day for the last two years.”

Phi Kappa Psi released a statement also on Dec. 5, 2015, further discrediting Jackie’s account, saying it did not have a date function or a social event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012, and that none of its members worked at the university pool during that time. The fraternity said it does not have pledges in the fall.
A screen shot of an ABC News
That very day, Rolling Stone posted a lengthy statement, which concluded with, “In the face of new information, there now appears to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.”

After claims that the magazine was blaming a rape victim for its own reporting errors, the final paragraph of the statement was revised.

“We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate,” it said. “Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment -- the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.”

On Dec. 7, 2014, Jackie’s former suitemate Emily Clark, who shared a suite with Jackie during her freshman year at UVA, wrote an op-ed in the university newspaper coming to Jackie’s defense. She wrote that Jackie seemed increasingly depressed during fall of 2012, eventually going home right before finals.

“While I cannot say what happened that night, and I cannot prove the validity of every tiny aspect of her story to you, I can tell you that this story is not a hoax, a lie or a scheme,” Clark wrote. “Something terrible happened to Jackie at the hands of several men who have yet to receive any repercussions.”

Three days later, Shapiro at The Post published a story with interviews from the three friends who came to Jackie’s aid after the alleged attack -- Kathryn Hendley, Alex Stock and Ryan Duffin -- saying their account of what happened that night was very different” than how Jackie described it.

“They weren’t hiding,” Shapiro told ABC News. "They were happy to speak to me.”

In deposition, Hendley said she never said the things she was accused of in the article. She also testified that when she arrived at the picnic table on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, Jackie said she didn't want her to be part of the conversation, so she watched from afar.

She also testified that she never saw any visible injuries or bloody clothes on Jackie that night and all three of them were suspicious that Jackie wasn’t telling the truth about who her attacker was.

All three said Rolling Stone never contacted them before the article was published, but Duffin said that Erdely reached out to him afterward.

“Sabrina asked Jackie to reach out to me. Jackie told Sabrina that I had said no,” Duffin told ABC News. “Sabrina called me with one question. She wanted to know if Jackie had ever actually asked me to be a part of the initial reporting. She had not. When I told Sabrina that, she seemed really apologetic.”

Melissa Bruno, a then-spokeswoman for Rolling Stone, told The Huffington Post on Dec. 15, 2014, that the magazine "is conducting a thorough internal review of the reporting, editing, and fact-checking" of Erdely's story.

The following week, Rolling Stone Editor and Publisher Jann Wenner announced that the magazine had asked the Columbia Journalism School to conduct an independent review, headed up by Dean Steve Coll and Dean of Academic Affairs Sheila Coronel, on the editorial process that led to the publication of the article.

Less than a month later, on Jan. 12, 2015, just as UVA had kicked off its spring semester, Charlottesville Police held a news conference where they announced they had no reason to believe a rape as Jackie described it took place at Phi Kappa Psi, but were still investigating.

Immediately after, UVA reinstated the fraternity’s chapter.
PHOTO: Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo speaks during a news conference on March 23, 2015, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville Police Release the Findings of Their Investigation

On March 23, 2015, five months after the Rolling Stone article was published, Charlottesville police announced at a news conference that their investigation concluded there was “no substantive basis to support the account alleged in the Rolling Stone article.” Police also said they were unable to find any evidence that “Haven Monahan” was a real person or that Phi Kappa Psi had a party on the night in question.

"We're not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter," said Chief Timothy J. Longo. "That doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie … we’re just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is."

After conducting an independent review of the article at Rolling Stone’s request, Columbia Journalism School released a 12,000-word report on April 5, 2015, in which it concluded that the story was a “journalistic failure that was avoidable,” citing issues at every level, from reporting, to editing, to fact-checking, to editorial supervision.

After the announcement, Rolling Stone officially retracted the article and issued an apology, which said in part, “Sexual assault is a serious problem on college campuses, and it is important that rape victims feel comfortable stepping forward. It saddens us to think that their willingness to do so might be diminished by our failings.”

Separately, Sabrina Rubin Erdely issued her own apology, saying that reading the Columbia Journalism School’s report was “a brutal and humbling experience.”
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Rolling Stone Is Slapped With Defamation Suits

Associate Dean Nicole Eramo spoke out for the first time in a letter to Jann Wenner that was posted within an article on The Washington Post’s website on April 22, 2015.

“Using me as the personification of a heartless administration, the Rolling Stone article attacked my life’s work,” Eramo wrote, adding that Rolling Stone "cast me as an unsympathetic and manipulative false friend to sexual assault victims."

Eramo wrote about receiving death threats and said her name would now remain forever linked to an article that has “damaged my reputation and falsely portrayed the work to which I have dedicated my life.”

Two weeks later, Eramo filed a $7.85-million lawsuit -- $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages -- against the magazine, Wenner Media and Sabrina Rubin Erdely for portraying her as the “chief villain” in the now-disgraced article.

On July 29, 2015, George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford and Ross Fowler, three former Phi Kappa Psi members who graduated in 2013, filed a lawsuit against Rolling Stone, Wenner Media and Erdely, saying they suffered “vicious and hurtful attacks” because of the article. They requested a trial by jury and were seeking more than $75,000 in damages for “mental anguish and severe emotional distress,” according to court filings. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

On that same day, Rolling Stone’s Managing Editor Will Dana announced he was leaving the magazine after 19 years.

The U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which had launched a review in 2011 of how universities across the country handled sexual assault complaints on campus, announced two months later that they had reached an agreement with UVA.

The OCR said it had reviewed documentation associated with 50 reports of possible sexual harassment, including sexual violence, by UVA students who chose not to file a formal complaint or proceed through the informal resolution process during the 2008-2009 through the 2011-2012 academic school years. Of those 50 reports, the OCR said UVA had a “mixed record” and failed to take appropriate action in 22 of them, with 21 of those reports alleging sexual assault, some including rape and gang rape.

That November, the UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi filed a $25 million defamation suit against the magazine.

Eramo’s Lawyers Believe They Know Who ‘Haven’ Is

As part of her defamation lawsuit, the attorneys for Associate Dean Nicole Eramo requested Jackie turn over any communications related to her alleged rape, but after several unsuccessful attempts, Eramo’s attorneys asked that a court compel Jackie to cooperate. In January 2016, U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad ordered Jackie to turn over any communication she had with Eramo, Rolling Stone magazine or Sabrina Rubin Erdely.

Eramo’s lawyers Tom Clare and Libby Locke began combing through the details, specifically the text messages between Jackie, Ryan Duffin and Haven Monahan.

They told ABC News they are now convinced that “Haven” was Jackie taking on a fake persona.

“Receiving those text messages from Ryan and reading them back and forth … there’s just no way that this wasn’t Jackie,” Locke told ABC News.

Clare and Locke say they determined that Jackie had used this fake name and created false phone numbers for Haven to communicate with Duffin and try to make him jealous.

Duffin told ABC News he believes Jackie “catfished” him with the fake Haven identity. He said in a deposition that he had received text messages and photos from “Haven” on “Pinger” and a “,” which are free texting apps. He said in a deposition that Post reporter T. Rees Shapiro told him that the photo of Haven was actually an acquaintance of Jackie’s from high school.

Kathryn Hendley testified in a deposition that she had also seen a photo of the person Jackie claimed was Haven, but when Hendley looked him up on Facebook, the photos appeared to belong to a person with a completely different name.

“The whole thing was initiated by Jackie in order to convince Ryan that she was worth dating,” Clare said.

Locke and Clare also point to Jackie’s admitted love of the TV show “Law & Order: SVU” and highlight one particular episode in which the plotline sounds very similar to Jackie’s story.

“The rape victim in that ‘SVU’ episode, as she’s being attacked, the perpetrators say, ‘Hold her leg,’ … the same thing that Jackie alleges that she heard one her attackers say,” Locke said.
A screen shot of an ABC News

Locke and Clare pointed out an email that had been sent to Duffin’s university email address from “” on Oct. 3, 2012. The subject line from the email said “about u” and then the body of the email said “You should read this. Iv [sic] never read anything nicer in my life” before continuing to what appeared to be a forwarded message from Jackie that read in part:

“Ryan is fine. Ryan’s great, actually. I mean, he’s smart. He’s attractive. He’s funny. He’s a scaredy cat. If you creep up behind him, he’ll jump right out of his skin. It’s pretty amusing. He’s honest. He always calls them just like he sees them. You can constantly count on getting the truth from Ryan, even if the truth hurts.”

Locke and Clare said they believe this passage was lifted from a scene in “Dawson’s Creek,” a popular television show that ran from 1998 to 2003, when the character Dawson is describing his love interest Joey and says:

“She’s great. I mean, she’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s funny, she’s a big ol’ scaredy cat. If you creep up from behind her she’ll jump out of her skin. It’s pretty amusing. She’s honest. She always calls them just like she sees them. You can always count on getting the truth from Joey, even if the truth hurts.”

Jackie “seems to have drawn significant components of her story from pop culture,” Clare told ABC News.

On April 8, 2016, Jackie sat for a lengthy deposition at an undisclosed location. A judge barred lawyers and those involved with the case from discussing the details of what Jackie said under oath.

Both Eramo’s and Rolling Stone’s attorneys filed opening motions on July 2, 2016, and Erdely’s reporting files became public. Court filings also revealed the red flags a Rolling Stone fact-checker raised before publication about possible holes in Jackie’s story and concerns with using a “photo illustration” of Eramo.

Eramo's attorneys said the fact-checker’s questions provide strong support for their lawsuit.

“We don’t have to look any further than what the fact-checker at Rolling Stone first thought when she saw that illustration,” added Clare. “And when she first saw it, she wrote in the column, next to it in the white space, ‘Is this too mean?’ That was her initial reaction.”

The fact-checker ultimately went along with the “photo illustration.”

Eramo said she and her husband refer to the “photo illustration” as “the devil picture.”

“Because I look evil,” she told ABC News. “It looks like I’m completely indifferent to this young woman crying in my office, which is a complete mischaracterization of the type of person that I am.”
In a May 2016 deposition, obtained by ABC News, Erdely said it never occurred to her that Jackie was fabricating her story.

“In my experience in writing about trauma victims and sexual assault victims, I do know that their stories sometimes morph over time as they come to terms with what happened to them, as they get over the shame and self-blame that afflicts them,” Erdely said. “They often do come out with further details or different details over time.”

During her deposition, Erdely said Jackie provided her with evidence to collaborate her story.

“She proved to be credible in so many different ways,” Erdely said. “She was able to furnish me with a lot of different pieces of evidence to back up what she was saying.”

Among other things, she said Jackie put her in touch with Rachel, Alex Pinkleton and Emily Renda, who seemed to support Jackie’s story. Erdely said she saw scars on Jackie’s arms, though did not look at her back.

At one point during the deposition, Erdely became emotional.

“I had full faith in Jackie and in her story,” she said. “And discovering that, that she has misled me, or had omitted information, it was… just devastating.”

But Liz Seccuro, the UVA alum who was gang-raped at a Phi Kappa Psi party in 1984 and wrote a best-selling book about the ordeal, now believes Jackie “absolutely 100 percent” stole her story.

“I think it’s a combination of a ‘Law & Order: SVU’ episode … and my memoir,” she told ABC News.

A year after the Rolling Stone article was published, Seccuro wrote an essay for The Daily Beast titled, “Still Healing a Year After U-VA Rape on Campus,” in which she said she had believed Jackie’s story when Erdely first interviewed her because she had the exact same experience, but now she was admitting she was wrong to defend Jackie. Securro went on to write that she believed Jackie stole her story and “used it for her own.”

Where Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Jackie and Others Are Today

Rolling Stone and Erdley are currently fighting two defamation lawsuits in regards to the “A Rape on Campus” article -- a $7.85 million suit from Associate Dean Nicole Eramo and a $25 million suit from the UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi.

The civil trial in regards to Eramo’s suit started on Oct. 17. The fraternity’s lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in October 2017.

While Rolling Stone and Erdely admit that mistakes were made in reporting Jackie’s story, and ultimately retracted the story, they are fighting Eramo’s libel suit.

Judge Glen Conrad ruled that Eramo will be considered a “limited purpose public figure” in the case. Under legal standards, this means that Eramo must demonstrate that Rolling Stone and Erdley published defamatory falsehoods about her knowing they were false or with “reckless disregard” for their truth.

Their attorney Elizabeth McNamara said Eramo cannot meet this standard and her clients “believed the story to be true at the time they published it.”

In addition, the magazine’s attorneys cite the results of the OCR investigation.

In a statement to ABC News this week, Rolling Stone said, "Dean Eramo's lawyers are attempting to shift the focus of her lawsuit in the media to Rolling Stone's reporting errors surrounding Jackie, which is not the basis of her lawsuit. In fact, a multi-year review of sexual violence at UVA by the U.S. Department of Education found Dean Eramo to have specifically contributed to the University's hostile environment for sexual assault victims -- an assertion much more critical of Eramo than any statement from the Article. The depiction of Dean Eramo in the Article was balanced and described the challenges of her role. We now look forward to the jury's decision in this case."

“Obviously, I don’t agree with that account,” Eramo said, referring to claims that she violated Title IX laws and created a hostile environment for students. “I think we were doing the best we could in a very difficult climate. … I think everybody can improve. And I think we were trying to improve.”

In regards to the fact that no students were expelled for sexual assault from UVA in the past decade, which may lead some to believe UVA doesn’t take sexual assaults seriously enough, Eramo said, “I can certainly see how some people could make that leap.”

“I just know what I was trying to do every day,” she added. “And we were taking it very seriously from my position.”

When asked if she could have done better, Eramo said, “I think everybody can improve and I think we were trying to improve.”

UVA declined to comment to ABC News for this report.

In a statement to ABC News, the UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said, “The allegations reported in Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s December 2014 Rolling Stone article were patently false, and even a cursory pre-publication review of the purported facts would have revealed them to be falsehoods. The Charlottesville Police investigation was thorough and professional, and we are appreciative of their work in the interest of fairness, truth, and justice. Because of ongoing litigation, we cannot comment further.”

The Charlottesville police say their investigation into Jackie’s case is still open, pending any new information. Longo told ABC News in a recent interview that he continues to stand by his department’s findings.

“I don’t believe what was depicted in that article took place,” he said. “Did something happen? I don’t know.”

Sabrina Rubin Erdely declined ABC News’ request for an interview, citing the ongoing defamation suits.

Emily Renda, who introduced Erdely to Jackie, did not respond to ABC News’ multiple requests for comment. She told Vanity Fair in 2015 that the Rolling Stone article aftermath was very difficult for her and she described the year that followed as “all hell and hopelessness.” She left her position working with sexual assault survivors at UVA to attend law school in California.

Alex Pinkleton and Sara Surface declined ABC News’ requests for an interview.

Ryan Duffin, Alex Stock and Kathryn Hendley graduated UVA with undergraduate degrees this past spring. Duffin works as a software engineer in New York. Stock works as an analyst and Hendley works for a non-profit, both in Virginia.

Duffin told ABC News that he continues to believe that something happened to Jackie, but it may not have been in the way that she described it to him.

“I don’t think anything happened to her on Sept. 28,” he said. “However, that does not mean that nothing happened to her before that would have prompted her created a story like this … and I’ve resolved myself to realize that I will never know.”

It’s been more than a year and Jackie hasn’t made any public statements since the Rolling Stone article was discredited. Her lawyers did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

If she could speak to her now, Eramo said she would tell Jackie that she doesn’t really blame her for what happened.

“I kind of I feel bad for how she's been treated in this process,” Erano said. “I hope that she can move on. I hope that she can be well.”

An Alarming Statistic Buried in the Fallout

A survey from the American Association of Universities concluded that more than one in five female undergraduates said they were victims of sexual assault or misconduct during their time at school.

Many experts believe these crimes are under-reported.

Liz Seccuro, who now works as an advocate for survivor’s rights, believes the Rolling Stone article could have “changed the way Americans look at the epidemic of campus sexual assault” instead of turning the focus on possible false sexual assault reporting.

“There are a lot of people who want to turn this into, ‘Women lie about rape all the time’ … now they just have a much bigger platform,” she continued. “There is an epidemic of campus sexual assault. and in 9,000 keystrokes, we were done. Weren’t we?”

Seccuro added that false reporting of sexual assault is “extraordinary rare.” There are limited studies on reports of false sexual assault allegations. A 2010 NIH study that reviewed cases over a 10-year period found roughly 2 percent to 10 percent of reported rapes were false.

In the wake of the Rolling Stone article aftermath, UVA President Teresa Sullivan wrote an open letter to UVA students in which she said “Our university has been placed at the center of this crisis. We will not shrink from it. We will lead.”

Since then, UVA has created an office to ensure that they comply with Title IX law, added new confidential outlets for reporting and hired designated experts to investigate assault claims.

Additional Credits
Senior Producer MATT LOMBARDI
Senior Editorial Producer LISA SOLOWAY
Supervising Producer JEN JOSEPH