Statement from the Clery Center Regarding “Rolling Stone”

Statement from the Clery Center Regarding "Rolling Stone"

The Columbia Journalism School’s report on the “Rolling Stone” article “A Rape on Campus” is a powerful reminder of the damaging impact of ineffective reporting.

Although “Rolling Stone” uses support for Jackie to explain procedural missteps, responsible reporting practices are, in fact, fundamental to sensitively responding to the needs of survivors when covering campus sexual assault.

Responsible reporting practices when working with survivors include:

  • Setting expectations about the different stages of the process, including how interviews will be conducted and the outlet’s fact-checking methods;
  • Maintaining open communication to address survivors’ questions balanced with candid conversations about what survivors may experience when coming forward with their stories; and
  • Commitment to continued education for journalists on working with survivors of sexual assault. (The National Sexual Violence Resource Center partnered with Poynter News University to create a course, “Reporting on Sexual Violence,” which is available at no cost.)

“Rolling Stone” owed it to Jackie, and to all other survivors, to report thoroughly and sensitively. They owed it to their readership to publish a comprehensive story. And they owed it to themselves to get it right – the first time.

Columbia’s report noted that the story was viewed over 2.7 million times — more than any other story “Rolling Stone” published, not including those featuring a celebrity. With this enormous reach, “Rolling Stone” had the opportunity to increase dialogue about a critical problem at colleges and universities across the nation. In spite of incredible leaps over the past year, the failures of “A Rape on Campus” moved the conversation in a stifling and unhelpful direction.

The Clery Center envisions a world in which survivors can come forward without fear. Though “Rolling Stone” drastically missed the mark, we still believe in the power of survivors telling their stories and the ability of the media to share survivor experiences with thoughtfulness and care.


Clery Center Statement on the SAFE Campus Act

Clery Center Statement on the SAFE Campus Act

The Clery Center believes that the proposed SAFE Campus Act (“SAFE”) legislation will be harmful to campus survivors of sexual assault and ultimately result in less reporting of an already vastly underreported crime (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014).

Supporters of SAFE argue that the legislation establishes a more equitable process by mandating the reporting of sexual assault to law enforcement before a campus can act. If implemented, SAFE will hinder campus reports of sexual assault by mandating a system that removes power from survivors. This is especially disappointing during a time when as a nation we are making unprecedented progress towards increased awareness of sexual assault on campus.

We have two federal laws – Title IX and the Clery Act – that already require a fair and equitable process on campus. The SAFE legislation fails to acknowledge that the court and campus adjudication processes have different goals. Under SAFE, unless a student files a police report the campus cannot provide or offer accommodations (such as request for a change of living situation or academic classroom) to the complainant  or the respondent.

We oppose lawmakers limiting options for survivors and defining what justice “should” look like. For some survivors, pursuing the law enforcement process may feel like justice; for other survivors, justice is walking into a classroom and not having to sit next to their rapists. Both of these options (and more) are offered under the Clery Act and Title IX in a manner that recognizes that everyone has different reactions to trauma.

The Clery Center opposes other additional provisions of the SAFE Campus Act – including redefining who can or cannot be a campus security authority under the Clery Act and specific mandates on how long institutions can suspend student organizations – but none of these trump our primary concern that a piece of legislation in 2015 dictates a singular response to the complex issue of reporting campus sexual assault. Since the Clery Center’s inception in 1987, we’ve seen vast change culminating in a world where survivors can come forward on their own terms. Support survivors’ option to report to law enforcement – don’t require it.


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