The Military has too Many Jackie Coakley Stories
In November of 2014, Rolling Stone’s published its infamous “A Rape on Campus” article, penned by Sabrina Erdely. The article described a brutal account of a violent gang rape by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia; the rape was presented as a fraternity initiation for new pledges. This story was written from the point-of-view of the “victim”, Jackie Coakley. At first, moral outrage rocked the country and the University. Yet less than a month later, other news sources began questioning, and eventually debunking, the Rolling Stone’s article.
Several news agencies such as Washington Times, ABC News, Washington Post, etc., have pointed out numerous discrepancies in Jackie’s story. Numerous witnesses—mainly close friends of Jackie and the school administration—came forward and ultimately discredited the tale as false. In the end, Rolling Stone retracted the article and took it down from its website. See links below for more details concerning the discrepancies.
While the article was completely discredited in less than a month, the damage it caused was severe. All of UVA’s fraternities were suspended upon the article’s release; the suspension was not lifted once the article was proven false. The members of Phi Kappa Psi suffered much more than bad publicity; all members had to go into hiding due to death threats and their house being seriously vandalized. Prior to the story being acknowledged as false, three members of the fraternity were publicly named and shamed as rapist. UVA’s associate dean, Nicole Eramo, received death threats due to the article’s inaccurate portrayal of her as coldly indifferent to the alleged attack. Both Eramo and Phi Kappa Psi have filed lawsuits against Rolling Stone. For many, the name “Jackie” has become synonymous with a person who makes false rape allegations. Rolling Stone publisher, Jann Wenner, referred to her as “a really expert fabulous storyteller”.
It was extremely fortunate for the university and Phi Kappa Psi that cooler heads prevailed and the truth was revealed. Sadly, the same could not be said of our military justice system. If Jackie had made the very same claim to military investigators, seven men would now be wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. Special investigators conduct Erdely-esque investigations, and Convening Authorities provide a Rolling Stone level of scrutiny. In the military, an allegation must result in a conviction; the facts don’t matter. SOH has been documenting stories of armed service members who are victims of this blatant, careless injustice. Eventually, cooler heads will prevail and the military justice system will be revealed for what it truly is; a conviction system.
One of the greatest critiques of the Rolling Stone article is that it set advocacy for rape victims “back decades.” Unfortunately, the military is well on its way to doing the same…
The below photo captures some of the initial response and irreparable damage done by Jackie Coakley’s lies.