A journalistic blunder that critics have called an institutional failure has resulted in a lawsuit against Rolling Stone. University of Virginia Dean Nicole Eramo is seeking $7.8 million in damages from the magazine and the writer of an article about an assault at UVA she said portrayed her as a villain.
The complaint pulls plenty of punches. In it, Eramo alleges that the mistakes in “A Rape on Campus” were far from innocent, the Washington Post reported.
“(They were) the result of a wanton journalist who was more concerned with writing an article that fulfilled her preconceived narrative about the victimization of women on American college campuses, and a malicious publisher who was more concerned about selling magazines to boost the economic bottom line for its faltering magazine, than they were about discovering the truth or actual facts.”
The dean lists the facts as this: The victim profiled in the piece, named “Jackie,” spoke to UVA officials about her alleged attack, and Nicole quickly got her in touch with police, connected her with a support group, and asked the young woman to help locate other victims.
Even “Jackie” didn’t consider Rolling Stone‘s depiction of Nicole — in which she was shown to discourage victims from coming forward in fear of UVA getting a reputation as a “rape school” — as inaccurate. She even joined in a letter in support.
“Dean Eramo has truly saved my life. She listened attentively to my story and provided me with several resources… I can’t imagine what my life would be like now if it were not for (her).”
In her complaint, the UVA dean is depicted as a “beloved figure” among the sexual assault support community, according to the Post, a claim that seems to be supported by a $500,000 crowdfunding effort to help pay for her lawsuit.
But she was cast as “the villain” in Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s account, an intentional effort to “personify the university’s alleged institutional indifference,” the Wrap reported.
And her reputation and health have suffered for it. According to the dean’s complaint, she was threatened, lost sleep, couldn’t eat, was emotionally distressed enough to talk to a counselor, and suffered complications after surgery to treat chronic breast cancer, the Post added. Strangers called her a “a disgusting, worthless piece of trash.”
She’s not the only one who’s suffered because of Rolling Stone‘s report. The fraternity that was front and center in the account, Phi Kappa Psi, plans to sue as well, the Wall Street Journal reported. In addition to the $7.8 million in compensatory damages, she also seeks least $350,000 in punitive damages and attorney fees. The university is standing behind her, said NBC News.
“I am filing this defamation lawsuit to set the record straight — and to hold the magazine and the author of the article accountable for their actions in a way they have refused to do themselves.”
[Photo Courtesy Jay Paul/Getty Images]