Discrepancies in UVa rape story do not change focus

Last month, Rolling Stone published an article chronicling the gang rape of a student at the University of Virginia at a fraternity house and the subsequent lack of response by University officials. The article sent shockwaves through the community and the country. Weeks later, various news outlets began reporting on discrepancies in the story recounted by ‘Jackie’, the female student at the center of the story. Rolling Stone has since issued multiple statements expressing its regret for publishing the story without further investigation.

The inconsistencies in Jackie’s story have led many to question whether the UVa student was raped at all. The International Business Times recently spoke with Leah Foster, director of Trauma Recovery Services at the New Orleans Family Justice Center, about Jackie’s story and the discrepancies. Foster regularly works with survivors of trauma, including sexual assault victims, and discussed some of the scientific research that surrounds the neurobiology of trauma.

According to Foster, the brain processes memories of trauma differently than normal memories because the brain goes in to survival mode. As a result, survivors often have a difficult time clearly recounting their stories of trauma. Foster asserts that discrepancies in trauma stories tend to be the rule and not the exception. These discrepancies do not lessen the veracity of the story but, instead, call for a certain training to make sense of trauma survivors’ stories. 

While officials continue to investigate the story, the University of Virginia community has not let the discrepancies detract from its commitment to addressing sexual assault within the larger community and the Greek system specifically. University President Teresa A. Sullivan issued a statement last week where she acknowledged the recent developments but reaffirmed the University’s focus on, and commitment to, the safety of its students.


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