The Charlottesville Police Department announced on Monday that it has found no evidence of a gang rape at the University of Virginia as it was reported in Rolling Stone's controversial article "A Rape on Campus" last year.
The article, which centered on the account of a young woman identified as "Jackie," detailed an alleged sexual assault at UVA's Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in September 2012, and sparked national debate about rape on college campuses before (and after) being widely discredited. Now, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy Longo says his department is suspending its investigation of the case, but is not closing the inquiry entirely.
"We're not able to conclude in any substantive way that any of the facts described in the article occurred at Phi Kappa Psi," Longo said at a press conference. "That does not mean something terrible didn’t happen to Jackie the evening of September 28, 2012. We just aren’t able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that terrible thing was."
Longo's announcement comes four months after Sabrina Rubin Erdely's Rolling Stone report was first published and called into question, sparking follow-up accusations that the alleged victim fabricated the assault. The woman identified as Jackie reportedly told police she did not want to pursue a criminal investigation of her allegations after speaking with a dean at UVA, and, according to Longo, did not provide law enforcement officials with a statement during their recent inquiry.
When asked at the press conference if investigators discovered evidence of a rape culture at UVA, Longo told a reporter his detectives found “no information to corroborate” the existence of a sexually violent culture on campus. The police chief did, however, highlight an important -- and often overlooked -- point of nuance in the discussion of sexual assault allegations and, specifically, of the allegations raised by the Rolling Stone case, about the difference between a false rape allegation and faulty reporting.
"I think we need to be careful," Longo said. "There's a difference between a false allegation and something that happened that may be different than has been reported in that article. I'm not in a position where I can say, based on all the evidence we have, that something terrible didn't happen. All I can say is that there is no substantive evidence that what is described in that article happened that night."
Longo indicated that the investigation of the UVA case will remain open indefinitely. Over the weekend, Rolling Stone managing editor Will Dana announced that findings from another investigation, by Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism dean Steve Coll, will be published "in the next couple of weeks." The external review, which will look closely at Erdely's report, will appear in the magazine next month.