A couple of days ago, the UVA graduate and rape survivor told the Washington Post that she has come to doubt the revelations in Rolling Stone’s UVA rape article.
“I think it’s important, for a gang-rape survivor at U-Va. who was portrayed in this story, to say what was a red flag to me,” Seccuro said. “I became frustrated in that I felt like the work of so many other people in the article went down the toilet.”
Securro tells Postie T. Rees Shapiro that she was closely involved in the reporting of the story,
Besides [arranging] interviews, she also helped arrange for Erdely to speak with experts on college sexual assault, she said. Speaking on the phone with Erdely the night before the story’s publication online, Seccuro said, “we were so excited about it and proud of this piece.”
I’m fascinated by this language, because it’s yet another sign that Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely approached this story not as a journalist, but as a woman with a cause. “We were so excited and proud”—this is the language of sisterhood. And given how serious the subject is, “excited” is just a weird way to feel. If you were writing a story on, say, My Lai, would you feel “excited” just before its publication? I don’t think so.
Securro goes on to say that she did not read the article at first because—well, her words are important.
“I decided I was not strong enough to read the entire article,” Seccuro said. “I had no reason to read it because I knew what was going to be in there.”
I call bullshit on this. Liz Securro is a woman who was strong enough to go to campus authorities and the police after she was raped; strong enough to help prosecute her rapist many years after the fact; strong enough to write a book and give speeches about the experience.
But she’s not strong enough to read a magazine article in which her case is only briefly mentioned?
She does eventually read it, though.
When Seccuro finally sat down to read the magazine in early December, she immediately spotted red flags in the narrative, she said.
“I decided to take it apart with a fresh eye,” Seccuro said.
Armed with a highlighter and pen, Seccuro began to circle, underline and annotate in the margins. She highlighted the detail that the room where Jackie alleged she was attacked was pitch-black. She underlined a section that described how Jackie crashed through a low glass table, causing shards to cut into her back as the men raped her. In another section, Seccuro wrote in the margins: “Not possible.”
There’s something odd about this as well. On December 4th—which is to say, “early December”—Time.com published an essay by Securro titled “UVA Rape Survivor: Don’t Doubt a Victim’s Story Just Because It’s Horrific.”
In it, she criticized me (by name) and others for doubting the plausibility of the story “Jackie” told Sabrina Rubin Erdely—even though that is exactly what she does in the section quote above. “Not possible,” she wrote in the margins. Well, yes, exactly. But apparently we weren’t supposed to think that. Why is it wrong when I doubt a rape survivor’s story but not when she does?
But there’s another problem here besides Securro’s hypocrisy. It has to do with chronology.
Let’s say Securro hasn’t actually read the Rolling Stone article when she writes her defense of it. Then she’s defending an article that she hasn’t actually read. And criticizing others who have read it for doubting it—even though she later does the exact same thing. I mean—even I didn’t sit down and scribble in the margins.)
But there’s some indication that Securro had read the article when she defended it. In her Time piece, she writes, “Unlike most people who read the article, I was not shocked by it….”
Which sure sounds like she read it before writing her piece for Time.com. But she told T. Rees Shapiro that she “immediately” saw red flags when she read the article.
So which is it? Was she defending an article that she hadn’t read? Or was she defending an article that she had read but didn’t actually believe? (“‘Not possible,’ she wrote in the margins.”)
It sounds to me like Securro is just lying here. Why? If I had to guess—and I do—I’d say that, when things were going well for the article, she was trying to piggyback on the positive publicity it was getting, particularly among women. Now that the article has been thoroughly discredited, she wants to get back on the right side of history.
Either way, it’s a little hard to put much stock in what she says any more.