In November 2014, Rolling Stone's 9,000-word article "A Rape on Campus" sparked outrage nationwide. The disturbing story, written by Sabrina Erdely, detailed the alleged gang rape of a University of Virginia student identified only as Jackie. According to her account, Jackie was raped at a party hosted by Phi Kappa Psi and the case was mishandled when she reported it to the university.
Readers everywhere were rightfully outraged and the fraternity was suspended. But it wasn't long before other journalists noted glaring discrepancies in the article and, after a review, the entire article was retracted in April 2015. The Charlottesville police investigated the incident but found no evidence to support Jackie's account.
The UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone. Yesterday, the lawsuit was dismissed after both parties agreed to a settlement of $1.65 million.
"The Virginia Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity has agreed to settle and dismiss its defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone and Sabrina Erdely arising from the magazine’s publication of the November, 2014 article 'A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,'" the fraternity said in a statement.
The statement issued by Phi Kappa Psi also noted that a "significant portion" of the settlement will be donated to organizations that work to prevent sexual assault and help victims.
This is the second lawsuit pertaining to "A Rape on Campus" that Rolling Stone has settled. Last November, a jury found the magazine and Erdely liable in a defamation case filed by Nicole Eramo, a former associate dean at University of Virginia.
The discredited story marks one of the most humiliating episodes in Rolling Stone's history. But, more importantly, it fed into the far-too-common misconception that women lie about rape. In reality, the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported and false rape accusations are extremely uncommon.