It was 1 a.m. on a Saturday when the call came. A friend, a University of Virginia freshman who earlier said she had a date that evening with a handsome junior from her chemistry class, was in hysterics. Something bad had happened.
Arriving at her side, three students —“Randall,” “Andy” and “Cindy,” as they were identified in an explosive Rolling Stone account — told The Washington Post that they found their friend in tears. Jackie appeared traumatized, saying her date ended horrifically, with the older student parking his car at his fraternity, asking her to come inside and then forcing her to perform oral sex on five men.
In their first interviews about the events of that September 2012 night, the three friends separately told The Post that their recollections of the encounter diverge from how Rolling Stone portrayed the incident in a story about Jackie’s alleged gang rape at a U-Va. fraternity. The interviews also provide a richer account of Jackie’s interactions immediately after the alleged attack and suggest that the friends are skeptical of her account.
The scene with her friends was pivotal in the article, as it alleged that the friends were callously apathetic about a beaten, bloodied, injured classmate reporting a brutal gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The account alleged that the students worried about the effect it might have on their social status and how it might reflect on Jackie during the rest of her collegiate career and that they suggested not reporting it. It set up the article’s theme: That U-Va. has a culture that is indifferent to rape.
“It didn’t happen that way at all,” Andy said.
Instead, the friends remember being shocked. Although they did not notice any blood or visible injuries, they said they immediately urged Jackie to speak to police and insisted that they find her help. Instead, they said, Jackie declined and asked to be taken back to her dorm room. They went with her — two said they spent the night — seeking to comfort Jackie in what appeared to be a moment of extreme turmoil.
“I mean, obviously, we were very concerned for her,” Andy said. “We tried to be as supportive as we could be.”
The three students agreed to be interviewed on the condition that The Post use the same aliases that appeared in Rolling Stone because of the sensitivity of the subject.
They said there are mounting inconsistencies with the original narrative in the magazine. The students also expressed suspicions about Jackie’s allegations from that night. They said the name she provided as that of her date did not match anyone at the university, and U-Va. officials confirmed to The Post that no one by that name has attended the school.
Also, photographs that were texted to one of the friends showing her date that night were actually pictures depicting one of Jackie’s high school classmates in Northern Virginia. That man, now a junior at a university in another state, confirmed that the photographs were of him and said he barely knew Jackie and hasn’t been to Charlottesville for at least six years.
The friends said they were never contacted or interviewed by the pop culture magazine’s reporters or editors. Although vilified in the article as coldly indifferent to Jackie’s ordeal, the students said they cared deeply about their friend’s well-being and safety. Randall said that they made every effort to help Jackie that night.
“She had very clearly just experienced a horrific trauma,” Randall said. “I had never seen anybody acting like she was on that night before, and I really hope I never have to again. . . . If she was acting on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, then she deserves an Oscar.”
They also said Jackie’s description of what happened to her that night differs from what she told Rolling Stone. In addition, information Jackie gave the three friends about one of her attackers, called “Drew” in the magazine’s article, differ significantly from details she later told The Post, Rolling Stone and friends from sexual assault awareness groups on campus. The three said Jackie did not specifically identify a fraternity that night.
The Rolling Stone article also said that Randall declined to be interviewed, “citing his loyalty to his own frat.” He told The Post that he was never contacted by Rolling Stone and would have agreed to an interview.
The article’s writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Rolling Stone also declined to comment, citing an internal review of the story. The magazine has apologized for inaccuracies and discrepancies in the published report.
The 9,000-word Rolling Stone article appeared online in late November and led with the brutal account of Jackie’s alleged sexual assault. In the article, Jackie said she attended a date function at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity in the fall of 2012 with a lifeguard she said she met at the university pool. During the party, Jackie said her date, “Drew,” lured her into a dark room, where seven men gang-raped her in an attack that left her bloodied and injured. In earlier interviews with The Post, Jackie stood by the account she gave to Rolling Stone.
Palma Pustilnik, a lawyer representing Jackie, issued a statement Wednesday morning asking that journalists refrain from contacting Jackie or her family. The Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assaults and has used Jackie’s real nickname at her request.
“As I am sure you all can understand, all of this has been very stressful, overwhelming and retraumatizing for Jackie and her family,” Pustilnik said. She declined to answer specific questions or to elaborate in a brief interview Wednesday.
Randall said he met Jackie shortly after arriving at U-Va. in fall 2012 and the two struck up a quick friendship. He said Jackie was interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with him; he valued her friendship but wasn’t interested in more.
The three friends said Jackie soon began talking about a handsome junior from chemistry class who had a crush on her and had been asking her out on dates.
Intrigued, Jackie’s friends got his phone number from her and began exchanging text messages with the mysterious upperclassman. He then raved to them about “this super smart hot” freshman who shared his love of the band Coheed and Cambria, according to the texts, which were provided to The Post.
“I really like this girl,” the chemistry student wrote in one message. Some of the messages included photographs of a man with a sculpted jaw line and ocean-blue eyes.
In the text messages, the student wrote that he was jealous that another student had apparently won Jackie’s attention.
“Get this she said she likes some other 1st year guy who dosnt like her and turned her down but she wont date me cause she likes him,” the chemistry student wrote. “She cant turn my down fro some nerd 1st yr. she said this kid is smart and funny and worth it.”
Jackie told her three friends that she accepted the upperclassman’s invitation for a dinner date on Friday, Sept. 28, 2012.
Curious about Jackie’s date, the friends said that they tried to find the student on a U-Va. database and social media but failed. Andy, Cindy and Randall all said they never met the student in person. Before Jackie’s date, the friends became suspicious that perhaps they hadn’t really been in contact with the chemistry student at all, they said.
U-Va. officials told The Post that no student with the name Jackie provided to her friends as her date and attacker in 2012 had ever enrolled at the university.
Randall provided The Post with pictures that Jackie’s purported date had sent of himself by text message in 2012. The Post identified the person in the pictures and learned that his name does not match the one Jackie gave friends in 2012. In an interview, the man said he was Jackie’s high school classmate but “never really spoke to her.”
The man said he was never a U-Va. student and is not a member of any fraternity. Additionally, he said that he had not visited Charlottesville in at least six years and that he was in another state participating in an athletic event during the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012.
“I have nothing to do with it,” he said. He said it appears that the circulated photos were pulled from social media Web sites.
After the alleged attack, the chemistry student who Jackie said had taken her on the date wrote an e-mail to Randall, passing along praise that Jackie apparently had for him.
Randall said it is apparent to him that he is the “first year” student that the chemistry upperclassman described in text messages, since he had rebuffed Jackie’s advances.
Jackie ultimately told her harrowing account to sexual assault prevention groups on campus and spoke to university officials about it, although she said in interviews that she was always reluctant to identify an attacker and never felt ready to contact police. In interviews, she acknowledged that a police investigation now would be unlikely to yield criminal charges because of a lack of forensic evidence.
Emily Renda, a 2014 U-Va. graduate who survived a rape during her freshman year and now works for the university as a sexual violence specialist, has told The Post that she met Jackie in the fall of 2013.
At the time, she said, Jackie told her that she had been attacked by five students at Phi Kappa Psi. Renda said she learned months later that the number of perpetrators had changed to seven.
The Rolling Stone article roiled the college campus and set off protests, vandalism and self-reflection. U-Va. officials responded to the article by suspending the university’s Greek system until early January and promoting a broader discussion on campus about sexual assault and campus safety. University officials have declined to comment on the article or the specifics of the allegations.
In an interview Tuesday, U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said her administration will continue to cooperate with authorities to investigate the case; she wants the university community to focus on prevention of sexual assault.
Capt. Gary Pleasants of the Charlottesville City police said that detectives are looking into the allegations at the request of the university. Andy and Randall said they have spoken to police about the case since the Rolling Stone article published.
“The investigation is continuing,” Pleasants said.
Last week, for the first time, Jackie revealed a name of her main alleged attacker to other friends who had known her more recently, those recent friends said. That name was different from the name she gave Andy, Cindy and Randall that first night. All three said that they had never heard the second name before learning it from a reporter.
On Friday, The Post interviewed a man whose name is similar to the second one Jackie used for her main attacker. He said that although he was a lifeguard at the same time as Jackie, he had never met her in person and never taken her out on a date. He also said that he was not a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
The fraternity at the center of the Rolling Stone allegations has said it did not host any registered social event the weekend of Sept. 28, 2012, and it said in a statement that none of its members at the time worked at the campus Aquatic and Fitness Center. A lawyer who has represented the fraternity said that no member at the time matched a description of “Drew” that Jackie gave to The Post and to the magazine.
In interviews, some of Jackie’s closest friends said they believe she suffered a horrific trauma during her freshman year, but others have expressed doubts about the account.
“I definitely believe she was sexually assaulted,” said U-Va. junior Alex Pinkleton, a sexual violence peer advocate who survived a rape and an attempted rape her first two years on campus and is a close friend of Jackie’s. “The main message we want to come out of all this is that sexual assault is a problem nationwide that we need to act in preventing. It has never been about one story. This is about the thousands of women and men who have been victims of sexual assault and have felt silenced not only by their perpetrators, but by society’s misunderstanding and stigmatization of rape.”
Rachel Soltis, who lived with Jackie during their freshman year, said that her suite mate appeared depressed and stopped going to classes. Andy, Cindy and Randall all said that Jackie’s behavior clearly changed that semester.
Jackie said in interviews last week that she wants to use her ordeal to help focus more resources on survivors to augment existing prevention efforts. She also said she wants to pursue a career in social work, helping others recover from sexual assaults.
“I didn’t think it could ever happen to me, and then it did and I had to deal with it,” Jackie said. “I didn’t think things like this happened in the real world. Maybe now, another freshman girl will decide not to go into a room with someone they don’t know very well.”
Nick Anderson in Charlottesville, Jennifer Jenkins and Julie Tate contributed to this report.