A letter from a friend: Jackie's story is not a hoax
My name is Emily, and I was Jackie’s suitemate first year. I am writing to you in regards to Rolling Stone’s recent statement of “misplaced trust” in Jackie. I feel this statement is backwards, as it seems it was Jackie who misplaced her trust in Rolling Stone.
I fully support Jackie, and I believe wholeheartedly that she went through a traumatizing sexual assault. I remember my first semester here, and I remember Jackie’s. Jackie came to UVA bright, happy and bubbly. She was kind, funny, outgoing, friendly, and a pleasant person to be around. That all notably changed by December 2012, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Our suite bonded that first semester and talked many times about the new troubles we were facing in college. Jackie never mentioned anything about her assault to us until much later. But I, as well as others, noticed Jackie becoming more and more withdrawn and depressed.
I remember her alarm going off every morning. I always assumed she had gone to class and forgot to turn off her later alarms. Being the lazy freshman I was, I tended to roll over in bed and pay no mind to it, hoping somebody else would turn it off, and remind Jackie about it once she got back from class. If I had known Jackie wasn’t going to class, that she was curled up in bed without the will to turn off the alarm, things would have been much different. I remember second semester, she shared a Netflix account with me and I noticed how much TV she was watching — hours and hours of shows that seemed to get darker and darker as time went on. I wondered how she had time, with homework and school, and I wondered if she was okay. I didn’t ask. I wish I had.
In December 2012, Jackie broke down. All of a sudden she was going home and none of us knew why. It was right before finals, and I couldn’t believe she was leaving. She was distraught, and only said she needed to go home. Her teachers had given her allowance to take her finals over break. At that point, we knew something big had happened. I didn’t know until this year with the publication of Rolling Stone’s article how bad that time was for her.
Sometime that year I remember her letting it slip to me that she had had a terrible experience at a party. I remember her telling me that multiple men had assaulted her at this party. She didn’t say anything more. It seemed that was all she’d allow herself to say. I wish I had done something sooner. I wish I had known how to help. But I applaud Jackie for telling her story, now two years later. It was a story that needed to be told.
However, the articles released in the past few days have been troubling to me, and the responses to them even more so. While I cannot say what happened that night, and I cannot prove the validity of every tiny aspect of her story to you, I can tell you that this story is not a hoax, a lie or a scheme. Something terrible happened to Jackie at the hands of several men who have yet to receive any repercussions.
Whether the details are correct or not, and whether the reporting was faulty, or the hazy memories of a traumatizing night got skewed…the blame should never fall on the victim’s shoulders. Jackie is a victim, as are so many others, men and women, young and old. So many stories have gone untold and so many perpetrators have been allowed to walk free.
There is fear among us, and there is pain after these past few weeks of turmoil. But there is also hope, which has been manifested in a multitude of protests, speeches, and groups formed. There is a support growing among students and faculty that has never been seen before. The number of conversations occurring about rape, rights, consent and justice is astounding and inspiring, but talking only goes so far.
As we approach this much-needed winter break I urge you to continue to support your fellow wahoos; do not let this issue die. Speak up when you see something happening that does not feel right; act when you have a chance to stop something terrible. Talk with your friends, let them know you support them, and that no reputation matters more than their own safety and basic human rights. Let them know you’ll stand by them and that their stories do matter. Walk your friends home, look out for one another, do not turn your back on a fellow student. Discourage those who have caved to peer pressure which encourages them to devalue another human being. Support the efforts of the groups leading change in the wake of this tough semester: One Less, Not on Our Grounds (#HoosGotYourBack), Help Save the Next Girl, and Buddies on Call. Let the nation know we are not a scandal school, but a school that does not tolerate injustice. We are in the public eye right now, and we can either let that cripple us, and shove us back into the mold of a perfect institution, or we can recognize that we have flaws, but that we work to reconcile them.
Sexual assault is not just a UVA issue, but UVA is where this issue has come to the forefront. The University of Virginia is a school historically known for its powerful student body. The Hoos of UVA have always rallied when a change was needed. We still stand as one of the top schools in the nation, and we can be the face of change. Let us be an example, and not a failure. Let us stand with survivors.