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They Let A Rape Survivor Tell Her Story. But Then They Took 2 Steps Backward.

When a mainstream magazine ends up doing more harm than good when it writes about rape victims, it's time to have some real talk.Update 12/9/14: Rolling Stone updated its editor's note, removing the phrase "and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced."

They Let A Rape Survivor Tell Her Story. But Then They Took 2 Steps Backward.


On Nov. 19, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine published a frightening story of a young woman's account of rape at the University of Virginia.

The story, titled "A Rape on Campus," was widely shared and praised on social media, even though many readers also noted how brutal the account was.

The article specifically highlighted the rape as occurring at one of the fraternities.


In light of the article, UVA's university president, Teresa Sullivan, sent an email to the student body, going so far as to say:

"Beginning immediately, I am suspending all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until January 9th, ahead of the beginning of our spring semester."

Many survivors of sexual assault at UVA were also inspired by the Rolling Stone story to come forward with their stories, and their responses were published on the website under the title, "Rape at UVA: Readers Say Jackie Wasn't Alone."

The young woman was named as "Jackie."

While the story focused largely on Jackie's account, it also examined the obstacles to reporting rape at UVA as well as the culture of sexism at the university. The reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, referred to some of the University's fight songs in the piece:

"A hundred Delta Gammas, a thousand AZDs
Ten thousand Pi Phi bitches who get down on their knees
But the ones that we hold true, the ones that we hold dear
Are the ones who stay up late at night, and take it in the rear."


But rather than discussing the epidemic of college campus sexual assaults, many media pundits began to call Jackie's individual account into question.

Robby Soave, from Reason.com:

"If the frat brothers were absolute sociopaths to do this to Jackie, her friends were almost cartoonishly evil — casually dismissing her battered and bloodied state and urging her not to go to the hospital. ... I'll be following any and all developments in this case, and am eager to see this particular story either confirmed as true or exposed as a hoax."

Richard Bradley, in his blog Shots In The Dark, very closely examined the very fine details of Jackie's story (heads-up, some very graphic details; emphasis ours):

"So then we have a scene that boggles the mind ... .
A young woman is led into a 'pitch-black' room. She is shoved by a man, who falls on her; they crash through a glass table and she lands in shards of glass. She bites his hand; he punches her; the men laugh. (Really? A man punches a woman and people laugh?) With the smell of marijuana (not usually known as a violence-inducing drug) hovering over the room, he and six more men rape her ... .
* * *
'Grab its motherfucking leg," says the first rapist to one of his 'brothers.' It reminds me of Silence of the Lambs. 'It rubs the lotion on its skin…' But Silence of the Lambs was fiction."


Bradley says that to "believe it beyond a doubt ... requires you to indulge your pre-existing biases," ironically without noting that his pre-existing biases make it difficult for him to believe that Jackie could actually be dehumanized and treated the way she recounted.


On Dec. 5, 2014, the magazine decided to say they had lost trust in Jackie.

According to an editor's note by managing editor Will Dana, Rolling Stone found "discrepancies," without mentioning what those discrepancies are. Here's an excerpt:

"We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn't confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence.
In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced."

And here are the consequences this will have on other survivors.

False accusations of sexual assault are very rare.

One of the studies on false rape accusations that used to be cited was by Professor Eugene Kanin, which determined that 41% of sexual assault reports made to a police agency were not true. But it turns out that only detectives made the call on whether or not it was "false," and the reports weren't thoroughly reviewed by anyone else.

According to several sources, including the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, Stanford, and the FBI, more recent, thorough studies put the statistics at 2% to 8% for unfounded reports of sexual assault — which is just about the same percentage of unfounded reports for other felonies. Special emphasis on *unfounded*, which is different from *false.*

Remember that these statistics only include sexual assaults that were reported to the police. And only 40% of sexual assaults are reported.

Way more likely than not, people who report they were sexually assaulted are telling the truth. To "misplace trust" implies that Jackie's story was not to be trusted, that her story is false, when there's no resolute evidence to back that up.

It is perfectly normal for victims to not perfectly remember every detail of their sexual assault.

Just because there are discrepancies in a person's story doesn't mean "falsehood."

And even if some details in a survivor's story are not correct, that doesn't mean she is lying, or that her story is false. Science explains that for us, as Slate reported last year:

"[S]exual assault victims often can't give a linear account of an attack and instead focus on visceral sensory details like the smell of cologne or the sound of voices in the hallway. 'That's simply because their brain has encoded it in this fragmented way,' says David Lisak, a clinical psychologist and forensic consultant who trains civilian and military law enforcement to understand victim and offender behavior.


via Flickr

This is bigger than Jackie's story — this is about how society treats victims of sexual assault.

We don't know every single detail of Jackie's account. We weren't there. But the number of people who have jumped to call the story "false" simply because there were "discrepancies" shows that:

1. We are still not in a society that treats rape survivors' stories seriously.

2. The editor's note ended up being misconstrued as an admission that a survivor was lying (which Rolling Stone did not confirm had happened).

Rolling Stone initially did a brave, fantastic thing by letting Jackie tell her story.

People are so often concerned with "need to hear both sides" that they forget one side is incredibly manipulative and chose to pick apart the victim's story on purpose so her credibility will be doubted. The publication hadn't even named Jackie's rapist. They simply let Jackie tell her story as it was.

But by saying they had "misplaced trust" in Jackie because of "discrepancies," Rolling Stone made it harder for survivors to step forward.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Officer Stagg meeting Sherry Smith on WISH-TV.

Indianapolis Police Officer Jeff Stagg selflessly maintained the roadside memorial of Shelby Smith, who had been killed by a drunk driver. He picked up trash and placed little plastic flowers, figurines and rocks around it to keep it presentable. Though Shelby died nearly 22 years ago, Officer Stagg didn't want her to be forgotten. And now, his act of kindness won't be forgotten either.

Passerby Kaleb Hall (@kalebhall00 on TikTok) noticed the officer cleaning up the site and asked him what he was doing here. Kaleb had already thought the behavior a little uncharacteristic, "a cop cleaning up trash in the hood," so he went over to inquire.

After explaining that Shelby's memorial was in his patrol area and that he guessed her family had moved away, Officer Stagg told Kaleb, "no one's keeping it up anymore, so I just wanna make sure it stays kept up."

Stagg had noticed the memorial had become surrounded by overgrown grass, weeds and trash. After driving past it every day, Officer Stagg thought enough was enough.


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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."