clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Charlottesvile police say there's no evidence Rolling Stone’s UVA rape story happened

Jay Paul/Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.
  1. The Charlottesville Police Department found no evidence that an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia — which was reported in a widely read Rolling Stone article — actually happened, police Chief Timothy Longo said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
  2. The alleged victim, known only as Jackie, had previously reported a physical assault to the police department, when she said she was struck with a beer bottle, but police said there were also inconsistencies in that report.
  3. Jackie did not cooperate with the police investigation, which Longo said took hundreds of hours and involved about 70 interviews. The investigation is suspended but remains open.
  4. The Charlottesville police conclusion backs up other reporting after the Rolling Stone article first appeared that suggested Jackie's story was exaggerated and possibly entirely fabricated.

Charlottesville police investigated the rape claim and found nothing

The Rolling Stone article, "A Rape on Campus," begins as a horrific story of a gang rape said to take place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house at the University of Virginia in September 2012. A woman identified only as Jackie told reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdeley that she was on a date with a man she'd met lifeguarding at the campus pool. She said the date took her to the fraternity house, where she was assaulted by seven men, including one who penetrated her with a beer bottle.

After the article appeared, the Washington Post reported major discrepancies in Jackie's story: the fraternity had no record of a party on the date in question, and nobody matching the description of Jackie's rapist was in Phi Psi, for example. Rolling Stone later apologized to readers, saying it had misplaced its trust in Jackie.

There is no evidence to suggest the rape happened as it was described in Rolling Stone, Longo said. They weren't able to find or identify the man Jackie said was her date, named Haven Monahan. Aquatic center staffers weren't familiar with Monahan, and his phone number, obtained from texts with Jackie's friends, was a Google Voice number.

Another person, who was in a different fraternity but worked as a lifeguard, was interviewed by police and retained an attorney. He said he did not know Jackie, and provided financial records and work schedules. There's no evidence that the two ever met, Longo said.

Through a lawyer, Longo said, Jackie declined to give a statement or participate in the investigation.

"We’re not able to conclude to any substantive degree that an incident that is consistent with the facts contained in that article occurred at the Phi Psi fraternity house, or any other fraternity house, for that matter," Longo said. "That doesn't mean something terrible did not happen to Jackie on the evening of September 28, 2012. We are just not able to gather sufficient facts to conclude what that something may have been."

Police knew about the alleged assault for eight months before the Rolling Stone article

Police learned about Jackie's alleged sexual assault, when Jackie was reporting another, physical assault to Charlottesville police in April 2014. Jackie told police that four men followed her in the main shopping and bar district near UVA, one of them called her name, and when she turned around, she was hit in the side of her face with a beer bottle. Her roommate had to pick shards of glass out of her injury, she told police, according to Longo.

Jackie was injured — her eye was swollen, and there was an abrasion on her face — but her roommate denied having to pick glass particles out of her face. A phone call Jackie said she made to her mother that night didn't show up in phone records, and police were near the scene at the time and would have been in the area, Longo said.

But during that investigation, Jackie described a "sexual act" in September 2012, although she did not want to report that incident. Longo declined to describe what she said happened, but the sexual act was "wholly inconsistent" with what was later described in the Rolling Stone article, he said.

Still, Longo refused to say that something did not happen to Jackie in September 2012, and said the case was suspended, not closed. "I can't prove that something didn't happen," he said.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.