Rolling Stone, an icon of pop culture, has been singing the praises of marijuana and advocating for legalization for some time. Actor Sean Penn held a secret interview with Mexican drug kingpin, “El Chapo” Guzman on behalf of Rolling Stone. The drug lord had escaped from prison and was in hiding at the time. The day after Guzman was recaptured, the edgy magazine published an article with this interview. Some journalists slammed the Rolling Stone for its ethics on account of the interview.
However, the magazine could lose it’s reputation further for publishing of a false story of gang rape on November 19, 2014. Allegedly, seven men forced themselves onto one girl who had been invited to a fraternity house party in September, 2012. Reactions at the university were extreme, as the school struggled to save its reputation. In fact, the university president suspended all fraternity activities for nearly two months.
Shortly after Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus,” some bloggers and the Washington Post discovered inconsistencies in the story. By December 2012, the journalist said she no longer trusted her witness. On April 5, 2015, Rolling Stone finally retracted the story and deleted it. It now appears that the rape never happened.
Everything that Rolling Stone would have been looking for to describe rape culture is found in the marijuana industry. The problems of secretiveness, cover-up, fear of reporting rape are endemic to California’s Emerald Triangle region.
Defaming the Wrong Person, Wrong Place
Nicole Eramo, a former associate dean of students handled sexual assaults. She is suing Rolling Stone for $7.5 million for defamation. Eramo believes Rolling Stone portrayed her as a villain in the article. Her photo was doctored to look cartoonish. A fake sign behind, “Stop Victim Blaming” suggests she has no empathy and mistrusts those who come to her to discuss sexual assault. She received many threats and hate mail.
Journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely had an agenda and went to an elite school looking for a story. Her research led to a student named Jackie who told about a fraternity member named “Drew.” Jackie had reported a rape at the time to her friends and to the Dean Eramo later that year. However, the journalist never verified other sources or contacted the friends. Rolling Stone’s fact checker questioned many parts of the story and picked it apart. Columbia University School of Journalism conducted an independent review of the story and found it invalid and shoddy.
The Washington Post has been reporting on the trial for the last two weeks. The University of Virginia has not filed a lawsuit, but the fraternity accused of conducting the ritualistic rape is suing Rolling Stone for $25 million.
Marijuana Country of Northern California is full of Sexual Assault, Rape, Violence
Erdely could have found a valid story of rape if she looked among the marijuana growers. In fact Shoshana Walter recently recently wrote about the difficulty of investigating rape in the Emerald Triangle. Last week Walter tweeted that this type of abuse won’t go away if Prop 64 passes. Why didn’t Sabrina Rubin Erdely look there?
Both the journalist and the magazine have damaged rape victims by using the example of a false testimony. (Will others who report assault and rape be considered liars?) What connects the culture of the college fraternities and the marijuana country is substance abuse. Abusing substances, especially combining alcohol with marijuana and other drugs, increases the likelihood of unwanted sex. Why aren’t we exposing this part of the story to warn potential perpetrators and victims?
According to Maryann Hayes Mariani, a coordinator for the North Coast Rape Crisis Team: “Women believe they are getting hired for trimming work, and then they’re drugged and raped.”
Besides rape and human trafficking, here’s what happens at marijuana farms, as reported this week in The Union:
*Growers sometimes blindfold trimmers before driving to plots deep in the mountains, lacking cell service and public transportation.
*Young women have reported being forced to perform sex acts with their bosses in order to get paid.
* Some women get higher wages to trim topless.
*There were 252 missing persons reported in Humboldt County, more than any area of the state.
Everything that Rolling Stone was looking for to describe sexual assault and lack of accountability is part of California’s marijuana growing region. The pot industry also doesn’t treat women well, as a rule.