Much of the backlash against Rolling Stone’s story about the mishandling of rape allegations at UVA seems to be predicated on the idea that the story which opens it – the brutal gang rape of a young woman named Jackie at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house – is just too awful or outlandish to be believed. That’s more than a little eyebrow raising given that another case of gang rape at UVA involving the very same fraternity made national headlines in 2005.
In 1984, Liz Securro was gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi house at UVA. She discusses her experience – and her frustration with the way conversations about rape continue to be carried out – in an opinion piece in Time:
Over 30 years ago, I told my own story to then student journalist Gayle Wald, who wrote extensively of my rape in the now defunct UVA newspaper, theUniversity Journal. I asked that she use a pseudonym (Kate) for me, and, like Jackie, I begged her not to interview the one man I knew had raped me, as I feared repercussions. There were two other attackers whose names I did not know. When I went to the dean of students at that time, Robert Canevari, I was covered in bruises, still bloodied, and had broken bones. He sat at his big desk across from me and suggested I was a liar and had mental problems for reporting my rape. Some of my new friends told me not to tell, that no one would believe me, that I would ruin my own reputation and that of “Mr. Jefferson’s University.” Almost a quarter-century after my gang rape, one attacker was arrested and jailed for his participation in it, for about six months. He had written me a letter of apology in 2005, which became the basis for a case against him. I wrote about the crime, the investigation, the plea deal, and its effects on my life in my memoir, Crash Into Me, which Bloomsbury published in 2011. I have become a victims’-rights advocate. The similarities between my experience and Jackie’s story are astounding because the culture has remained almost identical in the three decades separating our rapes.
Do you believe me?
. . .
Wholesale doubt or dismissal of a rape account because it sounds “too bad to be true” is ridiculous. Is it easier to believe a rape by a single stranger upon a woman in a dark alley? What about marital rape? What if a prostitute is raped? Just how bad was it? We should not have a rape continuum as part of the dialogue, ever.
Of course nobody wants to believe that an ugly gang rape could happen at a venerated institution of higher learning, even though our rape statistics provesomething is rotten in Charlottesville, in South Bend, in Tallahassee, in Boulder. But Americans are still a puritanical and repressed bunch who would prefer to see the only rosiest picture of our sweet land of liberty.
It’s also why we have struggled to comprehend the allegations leveled against Bill Cosby by 20-something (and counting) different women. Why couldn’t it just be the one, 10 years ago, who we believed? Cliff Huxtable, with his goofy faces, goofier sweaters and lovingly imparted life lessons, could never drug and rape women. But, allegedly, Cosby could, and has.