UVA fraternity receive $1.65m payout from Rolling Stone after defamatory gang rape story

The magazine’s cover story ‘A Rape on Campus’ was described as ‘a story of journalistic failure that was avoidable’

A fraternity at the University of Virginia have been awarded a $1.65 million settlement by Rolling Stone.

Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s November 2014 cover story for the magazine, “A Rape on Campus,” had focused on the allegations of “Jackie”, a UVA student, about Phi Kappa Psi.

She claimed she had been gang raped by fraternity brothers at their house as part of an initiation ritual, after being invited to a party there by a lifeguard.

According to Erdely’s notes, “Jackie” told her:

“My eyes were adjusting to the dark. And I said his name and turned around. … I heard voices and I started to scream and someone pummeled into me and told me to shut up. And that’s when I tripped and fell against the coffee table and it smashed underneath me and this other boy, who was throwing his weight on top of me. Then one of them grabbed my shoulders. One of them put his hand over my mouth and I bit him – and he straight-up punched me in the face. One of them said, ‘Grab its motherfucking leg.’ As soon as they said it, I knew they were going to rape me.”

The story was scrutinized in the months following its publication as the Washington Post uncovered discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and the magazine issued an apology followed by a full retraction.

Phi Kappa Psi filed a $25 million lawsuit against Rolling Stone in November 2015.

In a statement yesterday, a spokesperson for the fraternity said:

“The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity has agreed to settle and dismiss its defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely arising from the magazine’s publication of the November, 2014 article A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA. It has been nearly three years since we and the entire University of Virginia community were shocked by the now infamous article, and we are pleased to be able to close the book on that trying ordeal and its aftermath. The chapter looks forward to donating a significant portion of its settlement proceeds to organizations that provide sexual assault awareness education, prevention training and victim counseling services on college campuses. Individual members of the chapter will not conduct media interviews at this time.

The current members and alumni “suffered extreme damage to their reputations in the aftermath of the article’s publication” and continued “to suffer despite the ultimate unraveling of the story” according to a statement released by the fraternity at the time it filed the suit.

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