On the ninth day of the $7.5 million defamation suit against Rolling Stone, Dean of Students Allen Groves defended how the University of Virginia had handled allegations of a fraternity gang rape.
Groves said Rolling Stone’s “over the top” article was “designed to make an almost comic demonization” of Nicole Eramo, the administrator responsible for handling incidents of sexual assault on campus. The article did so much damage to Eramo’s reputation that administrators wondered whether she could still work effectively with students, Groves said of his former employee.
Eramo, the plaintiff in the defamation suit, claims Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely cast her as the “chief villain” and used her “to personify the University’s alleged institutional indifference to rape.”
Groves also told the court that UVA administrators worked hard to appropriately handle the case involving “Jackie,” the student who told Erdely she was gruesomely gang-raped by seven men at a fraternity.
Despite telling Erdely the graphic details of her alleged sexual assault, Jackie refused to identify her attackers for UVA officials, said Groves. She also decided not to go to police in 2014, when she claimed she’d been hit by a bottle in retaliation for the Rolling Stone article.
That repeated reticence left Groves the “most frustrated” he’d ever been as an administrator, he said. “I was angry Jackie would not give us the names. I couldn’t understand,” he said, adding that he had every intention of “putting these people in jail and shutting down the frat.”
The court also heard testimony from Alex Pinkleton, an advocate who served as the “liaison” between Erdely and Jackie but who was also close to Eramo. She said she helped Rolling Stone because “I wanted a piece that would talk about the nuances of rape culture,” describing her shock and disappointment with the article that ultimately ran.
After the story’s publication, Pinkleton said she defended Eramo. “People were angry at me for supporting ‘the devil,’” Pinkleton said, weeping.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.