Police in Charlottesville, Virginia say they have found no evidence to substantiate a University of Virginia students' claim that she was gang raped at a fraternity party in 2012. The accusations were published by Rolling Stone in November 2014, sparking nation-wide discussion and controversy.
However, Police Chief Timothy Longo told a news conference that a five-month investigation did not uncover any evidence to "conclude to any substantive degree that an incident occurred at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house or any other fraternity house, for that matter." Longo added, "That doesn't mean something terrible didn't happen to Jackie ... we're just not able to gather sufficient facts to determine what that is."
The Rolling Stone Saga
Rolling Stone's story, which reported the allegations of a female student, referred to as "Jackie," immediately became a media lightning rod. Jackie's claims, that she was lured into a room and raped by seven men at a frat house, accelerated existing national outrage about sexual assaults on college campuses.
But the report got just as much criticism as support, and soon major details of Jackie's story began unraveling. After reporting by The Washington Post revealed major flaws in Jackie's story (one being that the fraternity in question didn't not have a party on the night she said she was assaulted), Rolling Stone admitted it failed to properly fact check the article.
The Police Investigation
University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the claims after the story was published. Despite multiple meetings with officers, Jackie declined to speak about the alleged rape or provide police with additional details.
Police were also unable to find anyone matching the physical description of Jackie's alleged attackers. Based on Washington Post reporting and officer investigation, the name Jackie gave her friends as the date that lured her into the attack appears to have been an amalgamation of multiple high school acquaintances.
Despite these discrepancies, police have kept the investigation open to encourage further witnesses to come forward with additional information.
The Next Chapter?
This case is somewhat reminiscent of the rape allegations made against multiple Duke lacrosse players in 2006, another case that ignited national ire and quite a bit of litigation once those claims were proven to be false.
There's no telling whether any civil or criminal claims will follow the Rolling Stone story, although they seem less likely, given that the alleged attackers have yet to be specified. In the Duke case, specific players were named, investigated, and charged. Subsequent to their exoneration, those players filed a multitude of lawsuits, claiming civil rights violations, evidence tampering, and malicious prosecution, among others. Because no alleged attacker has been identified in the UVA case, those lawsuits are unlikely at this point.
Additionally, even in cases where police lack ample evidence to support criminal charges, rape and sexual assault victims may have recourse in civil court. But again, without an identified assailant, there can't be a civil suit.
This is not to say that the book is closed on Jackie's case. As new facts come to light, new legal consequences could follow.