A student fabricated the detailed account of a rape that has troubled the George Washington University campus since the story appeared in the college newspaper last week, the student's lawyer said yesterday.
The story in the student newspaper was based on interviews with Mariam Kashani, 19, a sophomore who said she volunteers as a rape counselor. Kashani told reporters and editors at the GW Hatchet, as well as other campus groups, that she had talked with the woman she described as a rape victim.
Kashani's attorney, Robert Bredhoff, said he has told university officials that the incident described in the Hatchet's Thursday issue did not occur.
The story extensively described the purported rape of a female student by two men on Halloween night on campus, several yards from the offices of university police. It said a 19-year-old student was raped repeatedly at knifepoint by the two, who were described as "muscular, young-looking black males . . . wearing dirty, torn clothing" and having "bad body odor."
The article said that one of the men told the woman before fleeing that she was "pretty good for a white girl."
Kashani could not be reached yesterday. People who have talked with her said she told them she wanted to heighten awareness about campus safety, using details she had heard from her work as a rape counselor.
The student newspaper published a special issue yesterday to explain how the paper had printed a story with racial overtones about a violent campus rape that turned out to be fabricated.
The controversial story and the handling of it by the student newspaper has renewed concern among students about race relations at the university in Foggy Bottom.
It followed by several weeks incidents in which a member of a fraternity shot hunting darts at two groups of black students on campus. The university has said that incident was not racially motivated.
It also reminded many students of an episode two years ago when a fraternity sponsored a "white history week" party -- with some guests attending in blackface -- during Black History Month.
Before the special issue of the GW Hatchet was circulated, students were talking in classrooms, hallways and lounges about the rape story and rumors that it was not true.
Some students said the rape story helped heighten awareness about campus security. Some said it could happen on the campus. Some students -- black and white -- said the story would adversely affect perceptions of black males walking around the campus and that they feared it would hurt the credibility of rape victims.
"It stinks," said David Trimmingham, 23, a junior and a member of the GWU Caribbean Student Association. "She used racial stereotypes to try to make her story more believable."
Jamie Weisman, 19, a sophomore, said the story made her and many of her women friends think more about campus safety. "But I think the story created some racial tensions. They've scared people unnecessarily," she said. "Now, if I see two black men walking toward me, I'm going to cross the street."
The newspaper's editors and the reporter who wrote the story said yesterday that race had played no part in their decisions to publish the story.
Patrice Sonberg, editor in chief of the GW Hatchet, said editors viewed the racial references in the story as facts. "Just like what time it happened and where it happened," she said.
Sonberg said they decided to publish the story after a reporter was called by a man who identified himself as 1st District police officer Michael Smith and said he had made a report about the incident.
But the man who called the newspaper apparently was an accomplice of Kashani's. Both D.C. police and GW police had told the newspaper that they had no report of a rape occurring on campus in the days around Halloween.
Kashani faces disciplinary action by the university, and university police are trying to identify the man who impersonated a police officer.