UVA Dean Opens Up on Campus Rape Article Firestorm: 'I Was Afraid I Was Going to Get Fired'
The former associate dean of the University of Virginia has spoken out for the first time since the publishing of an infamous and later retracted 2014 Rolling Stone magazine article, saying her life was changed forever after she was made out to be “public enemy No. 1.”
In an exclusive interview with ABC News 20/20, Nicole Eramo said her life has never been the same since the publishing of “A Rape on Campus,” recalling that her heart sunk as she read the piece about a young woman who was allegedly gang-raped at UVA’s chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
“It was very different from what I knew of the story,” Eramo told ABC News.
She said that the woman — identified as “Jackie” in the piece — first told her in May 2013 that she had been sexually assaulted at a UVA fraternity, but said that the account provided to the magazine differed dramatically from what she had been told.
The article, which a Columbia Journalism School review ruled was a “failure that was avoidable,” portrayed Eramo as “callous” and “indifferent,” Libby Locke, one of Eramo’s attorneys, told ABC News.
Eramo was depicted as a "false friend of Jackie in order to coddle her into not reporting her sexual assault beyond the bounds of Dean Eramo’s office,” Locke said.
The Rolling Stone article mentioned Eramo 31 times but due to the university’s privacy laws, she did not comment. After the article was published, she was bombarded by hateful messages, she said.
Though she thought she would be fired, she is still employed by the university, but is no longer the associate dean of students.
“I now work in the vice president for student affairs’ office for … planning and other more administrative — more of an administrative role,” she told ABC News. “So I don’t work with students as often... It’s been a very difficult adjustment to be in a different role and not, not have the privilege to be with students in that time of need.”
The trial for Eramo’s $7.85 million defamation civil suit against Rolling Stone is expected to start Monday
In a statement to ABC News this week, Rolling Stone said the depiction of Eramo in the article was “balanced and described the challenges of her role. We now look forward to the jury’s decision in this case.”
The UVA chapter of Phi Kappa Psi also brought a defamation suit against the magazine, for $25 million; it is scheduled go to trial in the fall of 2017.