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A Major Newspaper Changed One Single Word in a Rape Column Headline -- And It Made a Huge Difference

"No matter what Jackie said..."

Image via Twitter

Automatically, generally — what's the difference?

Much ink has been spilled about the University of Virginia gang rape story that was published — and then partially retracted — by Rolling Stone.

As controversy brews over the credibility of Jackie, the woman at the center of the story, many advocates have urged the public not to start automatically disbelieving rape stories just because the UVA story turned out to probably be false.

One of those advocates: Zerlina Maxwell, writing in the Washington Post (one of the news outlets that helped debunk Jackie's story) on Saturday.

Maxwell's initial headline — and an abrupt edit to that headline — turned a few heads on Twitter.

Image source: screengrab via Washington Post Image source: screengrab via Washington Post

The headline was quickly amended to implore readers to "generally believe rape claims" instead of "automatically" believing them, but not before Twitter users took note.

In her column, Maxwell argued that the damage done to those falsely accused of rape pales in comparison to the damage done to women when their rape claims are ignored, writing:

The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might de-friend him on Facebook. In the case of Bill Cosby, we might have to stop watching, consuming his books, or buying tickets to his traveling stand-up routine. But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.

The cost of disbelieving women, on the other hand, is far steeper. It signals that that women don’t matter and that they are disposable — not only to frat boys and Bill Cosby, but to us. And they face a special set of problems in having their say.

While some online defended Maxwell's column as advocating compassionate investigation...

...many others derided her for her "guilty until proven innocent" approach to accused rapists...

...criticized the sneaky way the Post edited the headline...

...and lobbed general snark Maxwell's way.

(H/T: Mediaite)

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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