Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely "had complete faith" in her source for a story about campus rape at the University of Virginia, she writes in newly released court documents. The author of "A Rape on Campus" says a university administrator suing Rolling Stone for defamation suggests she knew the since-retracted article was based on shaky information before publication in November 2014, but "nothing could be further from the truth," Erdely writes in the documents, per the Washington Post. Source "Jackie" was "forthright and credible," and her descriptions "consistent," Erdely says. Even when Jackie's story evolved from forced oral sex to vaginal penetration by several men at a fraternity party, "it never remotely occurred to me that Jackie was making this up."
Erdely knew sexual assault victims could alter their stories after "work[ing] through their own shame and self-blame." Jackie's refusal to name the ringleader of her alleged assault and her "terrified" reaction as she stood outside the frat house where she said the rape occurred also seemed normal. But after other news outlets began questioning the story, and then Jackie herself seemed less sure of the facts, Erdely wrote an email to her editors on Dec. 5, 2014, with "our worst nightmare" as the subject line. "The experience of losing faith in Jackie's credibility was devastating and disorienting," Erdely writes. "Never in my 20-plus years as a reporter have I had a story or a source fall apart on me after publication," she adds, per the New York Daily News. "I was stunned and shaken by the experience, and remain so to this day."