In the department of news that will surprise exactly no one, the latest reports from a University of Virginia dean’s lawsuit against Rolling Stone over its 2014 “Rape on Campus” article have revealed new evidence that the story’s main source, Jackie, fabricated not only her brutal frat-house gang rape but the handsome date who set it up, Haven Monahan.
In this latest twist, it appears someone accessed “Haven’s” email account, Haven.Monahan@yahoo.com, from the office of Jackie’s lawyers on March 18.
No need to page Perry Mason: even without this final clue, the case of the fictional gang rape was basically wrapped up by the end of 2014, a few weeks after the Rolling Stone cover story first rocked the nation.
First, press investigations showed that there was no party at the fraternity named by Jackie anywhere near the date she gave; that her account changed (according to friends) from forced oral sex to vaginal rape and from five assailants to seven; and that she had looked uninjured after a violent attack that she claimed left her bruised and bloodied.
Then, it turned out that the alleged rapist, named “Drew” in the Rolling Stone story but known by the Harlequin-romance name Haven Monahan to Jackie’s friends, seemed to be a ghost. There was no one by that name on the UVA campus or anywhere else; “Haven’s” text messages to Jackie’s friends were fake (and came from fake phone numbers registered to texting-via-Internet services), and his photo matched a former high school classmate of Jackie’s who lived outside Virginia. The catfishing scheme was apparently an elaborate play for the affections of Jackie’s friend and fellow student Ryan Duffin, who had previously rebuffed her romantic overtures—and whom she called for help after the alleged rape.
It was enough to make Anna Merlan, a writer for the feminist website Jezebel.com, apologize to blogger Richard Bradley and Reason writer Robby Soave for calling them idiots after they publicly wondered if the UVA gang rape story was a hoax. But not enough for either feminists or the mainstream media to call a fake a fake, instead of politely referring to “discrepancies” in Jackie’s story and piously intoning that traumatic memories can be unreliable.
In March 2015, when the Charlottesville Police Department released the results of its investigation into Jackie’s alleged assault—which found “no substantive basis” for her claims and explicitly disproved many of them—CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin repeatedly emphasized that “we have to be very careful” not to call Jackie a liar. Asserting that only two percent of rape reports are false according to the FBI, Hostin concluded, “The suggestion that she just sort of made this entire thing up flies in the face of statistics.”
Apart from the bizarre logic—a two-percent chance is hardly the same as “never happens”—this analysis was flawed in more ways than one can count. FBI statistics actually show that around 9 percent of rape reports are classified as “unfounded” by local law enforcement; however, it is nearly impossible to obtain a reliable estimate of false reports. Some “unfounded” complaints are mislabeled as false; on the other hand, some unresolved cases and even some rape convictions involve false allegations. What’s more, false report statistics track only formal complaints made to the police or to college officials; Jackie never filed such a complaint.
CNN wasn’t the only media outlet dancing around the facts. The New York Times story never mentioned the evidence that “Haven Monahan” was fabricated, stating only that “the police were unable to track Mr. Monahan down.” (They were also unable to interview Santa Claus.) Even Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo stressed, at the press conference discussing the report, that it “doesn’t mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie.” At one point, in a triumph of political correctness over common sense, he even referred to her as “this survivor.” Of course, it’s virtually impossible to prove a negative. Who’s to say Haven Monahan wasn’t a shape-shifting space alien from a flying saucer that landed on the UVA campus the night of Jackie’s alleged rape?
Some prominent feminists, too, continue to treat Jackie as a “rape survivor,” even if the hashtag #IStandWithJackie has been deserted. Annie Clark, an advocate against campus rape and one of the stars of the documentary The Hunting Ground, told National Public Radio in February 2015 that “we don’t know what happened in Jackie’s case … but I do believe something happened there” and that critics of the Rolling Stone story were “attacking the victim.”
And earlier this year, the ranks of Jackie’s defenders were joined by America’s top feminist group, the National Organization for Women. In January, NOW president Terry O’Neill and the heads of the organization’s Virginia and Charlottesville chapters sent an open letter to UVA president Teresa Sullivan accusing UVA dean Nicole Eramo of “abuse toward ‘Jackie.’” Eramo is suing Rolling Stone for smearing her as a callous bureaucrat eager to sweep rape under the rug to protect the school’s reputation. As part of the lawsuit, Eramo and her lawyers have demanded that Jackie turn over her communications with Rolling Stone author Sabrina Rubin Erdely, with Eramo, and with the campus sexual assault counseling group One Less—as well as “Haven Monahan’s” emails.
NOW’s letter deplored these “deeply disturbing actions … against a sexual assault survivor” and demands that Sullivan “put a stop to what we regard as a re-victimization of this young woman.” Nowhere did the letter mention the strong likelihood that Jackie’s assault was made up and the real victim was Eramo, who has said that she received numerous emails, letters and phone calls—including rape and death threats—because of the Rolling Stone story. (Another victim was the fraternity which had its house vandalized after being portrayed as a nest of rapists).
Indeed, the NOW officials vehemently objected to the argument made by Eramo’s lawyers that Jackie was not entitled to the privacy protections afforded sexual assault victims because of overwhelming evidence that her claims were false. According to the letter, “It is exactly this kind of victim blaming and shaming that fosters rape culture, re-victimizes those brave enough to have come forward, and silences countless other victims.”
In other words: fake victimhood should shield you from exposure because exposing it as fake means blaming and silencing victims. The “logic” here rivals killing your parents and asking for mercy on the grounds of being an orphan—only that one was actually a joke.
This is hardly the first time NOW has embraced dubious rape claims. Back in 2006, then-NOW president Kim Gandy condemned defense lawyers’ portrayal of Duke lacrosse rape complainant Crystal Mangum as a mentally unstable liar, decrying it as a “nuts and sluts” defense. (The case was later dismissed as a hoax, and Mangum is now in prison for the murder of her boyfriend.) Two years ago, the New York chapter of NOW gave a Susan B. Anthony Award to “mattress girl” Emma Sulkowicz—who is not a proven hoaxer like Mangum or Jackie, but whose credibility has been severely undercut by changing stories and by her behavior following the alleged rape.
Feminists are concerned about misogynist stereotypes of the vindictive or crazy woman who “cries rape.” Yes, such stereotypes were once common, and they still exist in unsavory corners of the Internet. But just because it’s noxious to generalize bad behavior to an entire group doesn’t mean no members of that group are guilty of such behavior. We can acknowledge that some men commit rape without slandering all men as rapists or presuming that every man accused of rape is guilty (unless we’re radical feminists). So why should recognizing that some women “cry rape” be equated with treating all women, or all rape complainants, as liars? In fact, feminist groups that advocate for victims would have far more credibility if they didn’t champion faux survivors.
By the way, the judge in the Rolling Stone case ruled that Jackie’s records must be turned over to Eramo and her attorneys, obviously disagreeing with NOW. According to The Washington Post, Jackie’s lawyers have claimed that their client was “not in possession” of “Haven Monahan’s” correspondence and was not withholding any documents. But it turns out that just four days before that letter was sent, someone using the law firm’s network logged into “Haven Monahan’s” email account.
You have to wonder what the people who still “stand with Jackie” will make of the news. Maybe the dastardly Haven broke into the law firm’s office or hacked the server. Or we could always go with the “shape-shifting alien” theory.