The first time I had ever come to terms with someone speaking about rape publicly was in my teenage reading of Maya Angelou’s, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.” Angelou’s account grappled with the effects of how rape literally silenced her for years. With the memoir, she was allowed to express irrefutable emotions between scattered facts, however, the world of media is not a work of fiction, and it is not simply comprised of writers, but reporters and broadcasters whose job it is to simply provide facts. Last month, Rolling Stone published an article about a student at the University of Virginia who states she had been raped by several peers during a fraternity party on campus, but key names, dates and times were misconstrued, which held their journalistic procedure under review. The primary fact of our media is the expectation for grappling, silencing, and difficult stories to be pulled into a projected time frame and framework; the not-so-obvious, grappling, silencing fact is, as a Nation, rape is one of those stories that we have not yet told enough under any appropriate time frame or framework. To think that in the few times a year where rape is brought to a headline, the person who claims to have been raped cannot be represented without blame is disturbing, but it is also highly disturbing to focus on one news source’s so-called, “rape story,” instead of raising awareness about stories from survivors and the accused alike, and why both are rarely told without shame.
Although Rolling Stone as a well-regarded media adds to the level of responsibility expected for its content, the magazine has since admitted to the mishandling of information, most notably due to a muddled first-person account from either side. To not have a clear first-person account troubles the validity of any story, and that is not necessarily caused by a lack of journalistic instruction or dishonesty between the parties’ involved; to not have a clear first-person account inherently lacks facts that are integral in the unfolding of any story, such as a journalists’ enthusiasm to receive the story and a party’s hesitancy to recall the events. The very nature of the rape subject can prohibit a storyteller because even the mere idea that a sexual assault can be recreated into these stories to enable courageous men and women across the globe is no small feat. An investigation into the psychology of rape, from the accounts of all parties involved is just as conducive to the nation’s discourse as a Managing Editor’s apology for he and his peers’ questionable journalistic decisions.
Moving forward, I hope that Rolling Stone can learn from this experience to enhance the trust of the public, not only in mainstream media to broadcast stories, but in our compassion as a nation to add voices of healing revision when the media does not broadcast effectively. I hope that the University of Virginia can move forward from the media backlash and into a school spotlight for how to conduct sexual assault investigations on campus. May all voices then not be silenced, or want to remain silent.