The three University of Virginia students who came to the aid of their friend, a freshman named Jackie who was at the center of an explosive Rolling Stone account about her alleged sexual assault, are now speaking publicly about what they believe occurred that night in 2012.
The students — identified in Rolling Stone as “Andy,” “Cindy” and “Randall” — were the first people to encounter Jackie after her alleged assault Sept. 28, 2012. Although the scene was a pivotal moment in the Rolling Stone article about how sexual assaults are handled at U-Va., all three of them told The Washington Post that they had never spoken to anyone from Rolling Stone and provided a very different version of what happened that night.
When they first spoke to The Post, all three requested that their pseudonyms be used because of the sensitivity of the subject, which has garnered national attention both for the allegations and the subsequent fraying of the story. In the days since, the students have given interviews to television news programs on national networks including ABC and CBS.
The Nov. 19 Rolling Stone article, written by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, portrayed Jackie’s three friends as coldly apathetic to her allegations, even pushing Jackie to avoid speaking out to protect her social status. It was presented as evidence of cultural indifference to rape at U-Va.
“It’s important that people know that the way she portrayed us is not who we are,” Kathryn Hendley, who was identified as “Cindy” in both Rolling Stone and The Post, said Friday. Hendley said she was offended that Rolling Stone labeled her a “self-declared hookup queen” in the article.
“I’m offended that she made me out to be this really awful, self-serving person, which is really not based on any personality traits that I actually have,” Hendley said. She said she is not considering legal action in the wake of the article’s publication.
In the Rolling Stone account, Jackie said she was gang-raped by seven men in the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house after a date function. The fraternity released a statement Dec. 5 rebutting the article’s claims, noting that the house did not host any registered social events that weekend. The magazine has declined to comment in recent days, citing an internal review of the article.
Alex Stock, called “Andy” in Rolling Stone and The Post, said that the three friends decided to come forward to tell their side of the story after the account came into question. He and the others said separately that the events that night, during their freshman year, were not at all similar to how they were portrayed.
“We realized it was something we could do without too much risk to ourselves to get the message out there, because people really want to know what happened to Jackie,” Stock said.
Palma Pustilnik, an attorney for Jackie, declined to comment to The Post on Wednesday about the three friends’ account of the events of Sept. 28, 2012. The Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault and used Jackie’s real nickname at her request.
Ryan — the actual first name of the student identified as “Randall” — said he met Jackie at the start of his freshman year and that she expressed interest in pursuing a romantic relationship with him. He made it clear he wanted to remain just friends, and after that, he said, Jackie started talking about having a date with a junior fraternity member from her chemistry class, a man Ryan believed he had texted with and exchanged e-mails with.
A name Jackie provided to the three friends of the student she was going to date did not match anyone at U-Va., and a photograph of the student the friends saw was actually of a man who was Jackie’s high school classmate and attended a different school in a different state. That man, reached by The Post, confirmed that the photos were of him but said he barely knew Jackie and had not been to Charlottesville in at least six years.
Late on the night of the date, Jackie reached out to her friends saying something bad had happened, and the three of them found Jackie hysterical and claiming that she had been sexually assaulted.
Ryan said that it’s still not clear to him what happened to Jackie that night.
“I’m wondering what actually happened,” said Ryan, who spoke on the condition that his full name not be used to protect his privacy and to speak candidly about a sensitive topic. “I’m not sure we’ll ever know, because the only person who does know is Jackie. . . . She might never say.”
Ryan and Stock said that a Rolling Stone reporter had reached out to them after a Post story about their account was published Thursday but that they had not spoken with anyone from the magazine as of Friday. Hendley said that as of noon Friday, Rolling Stone had not contacted her.
Ryan said he is less concerned about the Rolling Stone article than about the issue of sexual assault.
“The veracity of the account in the article doesn’t matter to me anymore, because I want more emphasis being placed on making people aware of how to spot the warning signs of sexual assault and help survivors if they confide in you,” Ryan said. “Regardless of the truth of what this individual story is, it’s still a problem the world over.”