Rolling Stone took another hit Tuesday when University of Virginia Associate Dean Nicole Eramo filed a defamation lawsuit against the magazine. Eramo is seeking more than $7.5 million in damages for Sabrina Erdely's story, "A Rape on Campus," which the lawsuit alleges cast Eramo as an uncaring administrator who tried to discourage the article's main character, "Jackie," from reporting her alleged assault.
Contrary to what the story said, Eramo claims she tried to help the student identified as "Jackie" as much as possible, the Washington Post reported. She said she put the student in touch with police and gave her information about sexual assault support groups.
"Rolling Stone and Erdely's highly defamatory and false statements about Dean Eramo were not the result of an innocent mistake; 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 lawsuit reads.
After the story's publication in November, Eramo received emails with comments such as, "You are a rape apologist who must LOVE her precious money so much that you would turn your back on these young girls. ... You are a disgusting, worthless piece of trash." She said she began having trouble sleeping and eating. The backlash from the article ultimately affected her treatment for breast cancer, according to the lawsuit.
Rolling Stone later retracted the story, and police were ultimately unable to corroborate "Jackie's" story, but Eramo said the damage was done. The complaint alleges "A Rape on Campus" permanently hurt her credibility, the Washington Post reported. She's not alone. The fraternity mentioned in Erdely's article, Phi Psi, has also announced its intent to sue.
The school itself released a statement Tuesday in support of Eramo. “The University of Virginia previously stated that the Rolling Stone article is an example of irresponsible journalism, which has damaged the reputation of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia,” it reads. “The university fully supports and appreciates the professional competency and contributions of Dean Eramo and all of her colleagues who work tirelessly in the support of our students and their safety and well-being.”
Read the complaint in full here or below.