The University of Virginia administrator who is suing Rolling Stone magazine over a story about the school’s handling of an alleged gang rape says the 2014 account erroneously made it look like she “used the trust of young women to cover up rapes” and that the story devastated her.
Nicole Eramo, who served as the U-Va. dean overseeing sexual assault cases on campus, spoke to ABC News 20/20 ahead of her defamation case, which is slated to go to trial Monday in federal court. In her first interview since the Rolling Stone story published, she describes feeling despondent when the article published and then worrying that the allegations against her would ruin her career — and her life.
“It just really spun out of control,” Eramo says in the interview with Amy Robach, which will be featured Friday night in an hour-long 20/20 report. “There was nothing I could do to speak to what I knew wasn’t accurate.”
Eramo, through her lawyers, has declined requests to speak with The Washington Post.
In her lawsuit, Eramo alleges that the 9,000-word Rolling Stone account cast her as callous and indifferent to rape survivors, including Jackie, the main subject of the article. Jackie described being gang-raped by seven men in a fraternity house near campus during her freshman year in 2012; the article alleged the university mishandled the case. The magazine later retracted the article, written by journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely, after Jackie’s allegations unraveled as a result of reporting in The Washington Post and a Charlottesville Police investigation.
Eramo is seeking more than $7.5 million from Rolling Stone in her defamation claim.
Rolling Stone magazine released a statement saying that Eramo is seeking to shift the focus of her lawsuit to Rolling Stone’s reporting errors related to Jackie’s account, which the magazine says is not the basis of her lawsuit.
“A multi-year review of sexual violence at U-Va. by the U.S. Department of Education found Dean Eramo to have specifically contributed to the University’s hostile environment for sexual assault victims — an assertion much more critical of Eramo than any statement from the article,” Rolling Stone said in the statement. “The depiction of Dean Eramo in the article was balanced and described the challenges of her role. We now look forward to the jury’s decision in this case.”
“They made it look like I used the trust of young women to cover up rapes,” Eramo said. “And that was so far from anything I would ever do. It was just unbelievable to me.”
Eramo also said that she believed the U-Va. administration was going to fire her. She was re-assigned and now no longer handles sexual assault allegations at the school. Eramo, who worked to help Jackie and encouraged her to go to the police with her allegations, told 20/20 that she was stunned when she read Jackie’s account in Rolling Stone.
“After two years of litigation, Ms. Eramo’s legal team has uncovered damning evidence of Rolling Stone’s reckless disregard for the truth and Ms. Erdely’s pattern of willful avoidance of the facts,” Libby Locke, Eramo’s lawyer, said in a statement. “We are excited for a jury of Ms. Eramo’s peers to hear the evidence and to pass judgment on Rolling Stone’s false and defamatory article. We are confident that Ms. Eramo will prevail.”
The 20/20 episode was set to premiere Friday at 10 p.m. The trial is scheduled to begin Monday in Charlottesville and is scheduled through Oct. 28.
This story has been updated.