UVA refuses to release review of rape response

The Associated Press revealed Sept. 8 that the University of Virginia refused a request for an executive summary of an independent review of the university’s response to a rape allegation made in 2012. The case, made famous by the debunked 2014 Rolling Stone article “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” put the university under scrutiny for appearing to value its public image over the welfare of sexual assault victims.

In denying the AP’s request, the university argued that the two concerns of protecting student privacy and guaranteeing transparency were in conflict. The university determined that releasing the report could dissuade future victims from coming forward for fear of being identified.

Not everyone agrees with UVA’s decision to withhold the report from the public. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative, wrote that the story’s failure “could have a chilling effect on other students making reports of sexual assault” and that the university should release the report with names redacted.

O’Melveny & Myers, the law firm hired for over $544,000 to conduct the review, issued an opinion arguing that releasing the report would not violate privacy rights because of “extensive self-disclosure by the student.”

The now famous article detailed an alleged incident in which a student named “Jackie” was gang raped by members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and faced “institutional indifference” after reporting the event to university authorities. Outrage over the article’s depiction of Jackie’s story appeared poised to begin a nationwide debate about sexual assault on college campuses. But problems with Jackie’s story emerged after a Washington Post report on Dec. 5 revealed inconsistencies in the victim’s story, leading to the article’s retraction.

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