Jackie Update

[Content Note: Sexual violence; rape apologia; doxxing; threats.]

Since Friday, when Rolling Stone issued a (now-edited) statement in which they referenced vague "discrepancies" in Jackie's story, and said they'd misplaced their trust in her, Jackie has been doxxed—or, at least, a woman who may or may not be Jackie has had her picture and personal details shared on the internet by Charles Johnson, who threatened her before doxxing her.

All of this because "discrepancies" were found in the story of a survivor of a gang rape, despite the fact that discrepancies are extremely common in the stories of any survivor of any trauma.

Many people are exploiting this in order to declare Jackie a liar, and bray victory for having disbelieved her. "Discrepancies" does not make someone a liar. And "discrepancies" does not validate the reasons for disbelieving her, because no one disbelieved her for legit reasons. They disbelieved her using entirely typical discrediting tropes straight from the rape apologists' playbook, which are used against every survivor. Every damn one. They don't get retroactively legitimized, even if someone lies.

And, for the record, I do not believe Jackie lied. And fuck Rolling Stone and the Washington Post and thousands of rape apologists who seized on the fact that Jackie is an imperfect victim for making me even have to say that.

There have been criticisms of Rolling Stone on the basis that they failed to contact Jackie's assailants. Rolling Stone did fuck up: They coerced Jackie into participating in the story when she wanted to drop out, which is a colossal ethics violation. But I'm hardly convinced they fucked up by not contacting her assailants. Unless they were going to offer a full confession (anyone think that was likely?), there was nothing meaningful they were going to add. It merely would have forced Jackie to tell her story in a space giving her assailants harbor.

Rolling Stone should have pushed back on that criticism and defended their decision to give her as safe a space as possible. Instead, they have legitimized criticisms based on undermining survivors' credibility and threw Jackie under the bus in the process. That is where they fucked up, not in making the decision in the first place.

Also, let us note that, without a trace of irony, rape apologists are claiming that Jackie is obviously a liar because Rolling Stone did not publish the names of her attackers while simultaneously screaming about how Jackie and anyone who supports her are monsters for ruining these men's lives. Despite the fact that they weren't named.

On the one hand, if a survivor makes a public allegation against a man and names him, she is a vengeful monster who is just trying to ruin his life. On the other hand, if a survivor makes a public statement of surviving without naming her attacker(s), she is a deceitful monster who is making the whole thing up.

Rape apologists have endeavored to make sure that there is no right way to speak out about being a survivor of rape, that doesn't walk you right into one of the discrediting traps they've diligently set up for every survivor, no matter her approach.

That said, there were basic fact-checking issues that Rolling Stone should have done, in order to protect Jackie when this inevitably happened. If publications aren't prepared for a seething mob of rape apologists to call a survivor a liar, and aren't prepared to do everything they can to protect her, then they are nothing more than opportunistic exploiters of victims, in pursuit of rape porn clickbait.

Maya Dusenbery has written a terrific piece on this subject at Feministing, which I strongly encourage you to read in its entirety: "On Rolling Stone, lessons from fact-checking, and the limits of journalism."

Following is some additional recommended reading:

Wagatwe Wanjuki: "Why I Don't Want to Hear Both Sides of Rape Cases."

Katie Klabusich: "How Rolling Stone Gave a Gift to Rape Apologists."

Ali Safran: "Victims' Memories Are Imperfect, But Still Perfectly Believable."

Emily: "A letter from a friend: Jackie's story is not a hoax."

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to leave links in comments to other good stuff you've been reading. Rape apologia will be deleted, and commenters engaging in it will be banned.

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