Tuesday, March 18, 2014

On False Rape Allegations/Accusations
(The Rates, Studies, and More)


False rape allegation rates are currently a popular topic amongst those involved in online gender discussions; primarily, individuals engaging in these discussions argue over what the true rate of false rape allegations actually is. Some contend that the rate is something like 2%, some assert that the rate might truly be closer to 8%, and some even go so far as to argue that the rate is nearer to 41% (this one is especially fallacious). However, if one looks deeper into these numbers, a few issues with all of the known rates become immediately apparent.

Firstly, the ways in which false rape allegation rates are calculated differs between regions, groups, organizations, and so forth; methodologies for gathering the data and analyzing it vary greatly and are sometimes inconsistent (poor practices/procedures). Likewise, not all reports of rape which are deemed “false” are determined to be so because it was discovered that the reports were actually “untrue” or “a lie.”

Some reports of rape are “no-crimed” or considered “unfounded” (which are generally the more technical terms used to categorize “false rape reports” in the U.K. and in the U.S., respectively) based on the biases of the overseeing police (prejudices, such as in instances wherein the police deemed a rape report “unfounded” or gave it a “no-crime” based on the demeanor/appearance of the accuser).

And, some are “no-crimed” or deemed “unfounded” based on a lack of evidence (which does not necessarily mean that the report was untrue), or based on the time that it took the victim to report the crime, or based on the fact that the crime was reported by someone other than the victim, or even to reduce a department’s caseload and/or to improve the crime statistics for the area, and so forth.

In essence, not all rape reports which are deemed false were determined to be false because they were actually found to be untrue or were discovered to be a lie, and even in some of the cases wherein the reports were deemed false because the accuser recanted or confessed that they had not told the truth, the matter is not entirely black-and-white. Nevertheless, all of these things, with their differing circumstances, are commonly classified as “false” reports (which can be misleading and misrepresentative).

A great deal of the issues with much of the data related to rape and false rape allegations have to do with poor policing practices/procedures (there is work being done to correct this issue now, but it is still a problem) and also to prejudice, biases, and various other social factors.

Many individuals (such as some MRAs and Feminists) who present and discuss these statistics simply take them at face value, as if all rape reports which fall into the category of being deemed “false” were actually found to be a lie, or were actually recanted by the accuser (and the retraction was always genuine), but these things are not the case; there are several factors which come into play that call into question essentially all of the statistics for false rape allegations currently in existence/circulation—in other words—we can’t be absolutely certain at the moment what the true number is, based on the present data and all of its context, and we also can’t ignore the many elements which amalgamate to bring to life these numbers.

In this post, I am going to address many false rape report statistics (the percentages/numerical data), I am going to discuss the issues with all of these numbers (the problems with the methodology/practices of both the police and some of the researchers who've done studies concerning these numbers), I am going to discuss the context and/or circumstantial information which factors into the creation of these numbers, I am going to discuss what these numbers and/or false rape reports mean for everyone else, and I am also going to discuss some additional, but still relevant and related, subjects as well.

All of this information must be considered if one is to have a fairly comprehensive and objective understanding of all of the data currently in rotation. It is far more complex a topic than most (especially MRAs) present it to be and/or would like (apparently) to believe. And, the material provided in this post is certainly not all of the information available out there, so be sure to do your own research into these topics after reading this.
*Notes on In-Text Citation Numbers and General Formatting:

Throughout this text, all of the numbers in brackets are used to identify one of my sources. The in-text bracketed numbers correspond to the bracketed numbers at the references list at the bottom of this post. Things not in quotations will generally be my own words, but things in quotations are excerpts drawn from my various sources. I have italicized and made a lighter-grey color all of the quotes from other works, so as to differentiate them from my own words. And, also, there are some quotes within quotes that I reformatted from how they were in the original texts so as to make them more appropriately standardized for this post; my hope with this formatting-style was to make the piece as easy to read and understand as possible.
To begin, I am going to address poor policing practices and procedures, and non-reporting due to police attitudes and social influences; most of the information for this section is directly below, but there are references throughout the later text (concerning some statistics and studies) to various police departments and poor practices and policies, et cetera, so keep that in mind as you read this (essentially, there is more information for this section later in the post than what I placed in this section; I didn’t include some of that here because I didn’t want the text to be repeated excessively).

-:Poor Policing Practices (Introduction):

After reading through much of the original research data, it became immediately apparent to me that there is very little overall-uniformity anywhere in regard to the terminology-used by different agencies, police procedures and policies, and documentation of events (this is an issue when it comes to many things policing-related).

For example, one researcher by the name of Kanin whom is sometimes cited (his research will be discussed at more length later) seemed to intend to imply a high percentage of false rape allegations (hence, his work is a widely-quoted “go-to” resource for many defense attorneys); however, his findings inadvertently discredited the police organization of the town that he studied.

From his discoveries, a picture emerged of officers attempting to convince victims that their accused could go free and thus might later be in a position to seek revenge. Wouldn’t anyone under such circumstances have second thoughts about pressing charges?


-:Some Examples of Poor Police Practices Brought to Light:

Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans, Louisiana [36]

“We found that the NOPD has engaged in patterns of misconduct that violate the Constitution and federal law, including a pattern or practice of excessive force, and of illegal stops, searches, and arrests. We found also a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in the Department's under-enforcement and under-investigation of violence against women. We further found strong indications of discriminatory policing based on racial, ethnic, and LGBT bias, as well as a failure to provide critical police services to language minority communities. On July 24, 2012, we reached a settlement resolving our investigation and asked the Court to make our settlement an order enforceable by the Court. On January 11, 2013, the Court approved the agreement.” [36]

False Reports of Sexual Assault: Findings on Police Practices, Laws, and Advocacy Options [37]

“False reports of sexual assault are extremely rare. Their incidence, already a small fraction of reported assaults, is dwarfed by the overwhelming prevalence of sexual violence, most of which is never brought to the attention of formal authorities. A growing body of empirical findings indicates that sexual assault is both frequent and significantly under-reported. Further, there is consistent evidence that both police and prosecutorial services often lack appropriate training for processing allegations of sexual assault, fail to adequately investigate such allegations, are reluctant to initiate prosecutions, and correspondingly obtain few convictions. Notably, such tendencies are consistent across most jurisdictions, including in countries lauded for their high levels of development and gender equality.

This Section of the paper presents the conceptual and statistical basis for the central premise of this paper: namely, that prosecutions for allegedly false reports of sexual assault are rarely justified and should be strongly disfavored by law enforcement officials. We argue that such prosecutions are related to the fact that rape, in general, is poorly investigated and prosecuted through industrialized nations. This Section proceeds in three parts. Part A explains that prosecuting rape complainants is not in the public interest and is likely related to false beliefs and stereotypes about rape victims. Part B explores the confusion surrounding police decisions for classifying reports as “false” and describes accepted best standards for accurate categorization. Part C reviews the statistical evidence surrounding false reports for sexual assaults and concludes that the best available studies suggest that false reports of rape are very rare – likely under three percent of all reported rapes.” [37]

Word Can Spread in a Community That the Police Are Unresponsive or Even Abusive in Sexual Assault Cases:

Human Rights Watch US: DC Police Mishandle Sexual Assault Cases: Independent Oversight Needed to Ensure Proper Investigation - Capitol Offense Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia [39]

"Victims of sexual assault in Washington, DC, are not getting the effective response they deserve and should expect from the district’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Sexual assault cases are too often not properly documented or investigated and victims may face callous, traumatizing treatment, despite official departmental policy to the contrary." [39]

"The 196-page report, ‘Capitol Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia,’ concludes that in many sexual assault cases, the police did not file incident reports, which are required to proceed with an investigation, or misclassified serious sexual assaults as lesser or other crimes." [39]

Victim/Victimization Quotes [39]:

“By failing to classify the crime committed against me as an attempted rape or sexual assault, by ignoring my account of the story, you condemn me to a life where I mistrust the police, abandon any faith I possessed in the criminal justice system, and you have caused me more victimization than the actual perpetrator of the crime committed against me. Moreover, you fail the community you have sworn to protect….” – Letter to MPD Chief Cathy Lanier from Eleanor G., survivor of a 2011 attempted sexual assault, October 4, 2011

“Reporting to the police was far more traumatizing than the rape itself.” – Susan D., after reporting a sexual assault in March 2011

“[The detectives] told me that they did not want to waste their time with me… that no one was going to believe my report and that he didn’t even want to file it…. When I called to get the police report number [the detective] told me it was a ‘miscellaneous’ report…. This is not ‘miscellaneous’ THIS IS RAPE!” – Maya T., complaint form, Office of Police Complaints, May 9, 2011

“They just didn’t listen to me, they made me feel completely ashamed of myself, they made me feel like I was lying or like I was too stupid to understand what happened to me, that I was trying to make something a big deal that wasn't that big of a deal.” – Eleanor G., describing her interaction with the MPD in 2011 
“To hear him tell me he didn’t believe me was a slap in my face. It just knocked me down, it was a punch in my stomach. It just took the air right out of me. And where do you go from there when the policeman tells you he doesn’t believe you?” – Shelly G., Washington DC, August 21, 2012, describing her interaction with an MPD detective in October 2009

“The detective was in the room with the interpreter, and two other female officers and after 40 min, the survivor was literally hysterical…. [T]he nurses and I could hear it from outside the room … she was sobbing and yelling…. We interrupted and the detective told us, ‘We’ll be done when I say we’re done.’ Two min later, they walked out of the room…. [T]he detective told me there would be no case and told me to go see her.” – Email from a Rape Crisis Center advocate, forwarded to the Office of Victim Services at the Mayor’s Office, April 2009

“I think that filing the report was just as traumatic as the crime, if not more.... Is it common place for the police to put blame on the sexual assault victims and then completely ignore them?” – Complaint form, Office of Police Complaints, November 12, 2009

“Investigators serve as prosecutor, judge, and jury and stop the process before it begins.” – Experienced community service provider to sexual assault victims, Washington, DC, February 16, 2011
“For a sexual assault survivor who has already experienced an intense violation, to have your governmental system essentially say to you, ‘This didn’t happen, or if it did happen it doesn’t really count,’ is devastating.” – Denise Snyder, DC Rape Crisis Center, Washington City Paper, April 9, 2010

“I found out you dealt with her about 4 am Friday or Saturday morning … and she chose not to make a report. Something about a gang bang and being intoxicated…. Anyway, I think it was just an OI [Office Information]. However, she now feels differently and wishes to make a report. She says her phone isn't working but she can be reached…. Sorry, BUT IT IS WHAT IT IS!!!!!!!” – Note from one detective to another, found in investigative file from 2009 reviewed by Human Rights Watch

“How can you not remember? How can we believe you?” – Witness reporting a statement made by an MPD detective to a victim who reported being assaulted by a stranger after going to a bar, but could not remember the name of the bar

“You shouldn’t have been outside. This is what happens at two in the morning. What do you expect?” – A member of the medical staff reporting a statement made by an MPD detective to an 18-year-old runaway who was assaulted at night
“Well, she could have fallen on rocks and may not have had panties on. Also what kind of girl is in a room with five guys?” – Nurse describing the response of a detective to a patient who was found unconscious in a hotel room with five men, with severe tears to her vagina and rectum that required emergency surgery, in 2010

“You are only doing this to get immigration status, aren't you?” – Lawyer’s account of what an MPD detective told his client when she reported being kidnapped and sexually assaulted repeatedly overnight in early 2011

What Do Federally Collected Statistics Say about Reporting Rates (?):

Societal pressures, media attention and several other factors can serve to either drive reporting rates up or down (or, more likely, can lead to both). While making it clear that many sexual assaults go unreported, the National Institute of Justice reports that media coverage also helps to increase reporting rates:

“Does the victim-offender relationship remain an important predictor of the likelihood of police notification in rape cases? An NIJ-funded study examined this question and found that police notification rates by third parties and by victims who had been raped by an acquaintance or intimate partner increased significantly between 1973 and 2000. Using data from the National Crime Survey (NCS) from 1973–1991 and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) from 1992–2000, Baumer found that overall reporting rates continued to increase during the 1990s, and that differences in rates of reporting between stranger and non-stranger rapes diminished.

These changes coincided with large-scale media and social campaigns that focused attention on ‘hidden’ rapes. Legal reforms and the growth in services available to rape victims have been influential in increasing the likelihood that women will report a rape to police.” [40]

Not Everyone Believes That Large Numbers of Sexual Assaults Go Unreported, but for the U.S., the Federal Government States That Many Rape Victims Still Do Not Report the Crime(s) Committed against Them:

“The most recent research, however, indicates that a majority of rape victims still do not report their attacks to police. Further study is needed to understand what impact various policies and practices have on reporting behavior and system response and to precisely identify the practices that would facilitate higher rates of notification.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that the majority of rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated against women and girls in the United States between 1992 and 2000 were not reported to the police. Only 36 percent of rapes, 34 percent of attempted rapes, and 26 percent of sexual assaults were reported.” [40]

In regard to reporting fears:

Fear when making an accusation is not confined to fear of retribution by the accused-assailant or abuse by poorly-trained police officers; most people have heard of cases, not necessarily involving sexual assault, where people got into trouble, not so much for what they did, but for what they said to public officials, and this can influence whether or not people report crimes, even in authentic cases:

How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents By Solomon L. Wisenberg [38]

"Did you know that it is a crime to tell a lie to the federal government? Even if your lie is oral and not under oath? Even if you have received no warnings of any kind? Even if you are not trying to cheat the government out of money? Even if the government is not actually misled by your falsehood? Well it is." [38]


"It may be true that most federal agents and prosecutors are decent people who would not intentionally abuse Section 1001. Moreover, it is very important from a law enforcement perspective for federal agents to be able to informally question witnesses during the initial stages of an investigation. And certainly citizens are under no obligation to speak to a law enforcement agent in the first place, although, as shown below, it is essential to learn how to decline to speak to government officers. But power corrupts, and the potential for abuse of this statute is great, especially during periods of public outcry over corporate and other white-collar crimes. When we reflect upon how many petty rules and regulations get broken and how many white lies are told during the course of an average American business day, it is apparent that Section 1001 can easily be applied and misapplied to normally upstanding folk." [38]

As grim as much of the above might sound, there is work being done to correct these issues (as I somewhat noted at the beginning of this post):

“In recent years both the police and prosecutors have put a great deal of effort into improving the way we investigate and prosecute sexual offences. The results of the changes and improvements which have been made are encouraging. Our committed and specialist staff have prioritised performance in these important and difficult cases. We have bolstered training, policies and guidance for rape and domestic violence specialists. Closer working with the police and specialist services has helped to address the types of ingrained practices which can ignore, or even add to, the victimisation of women and girls. We are not complacent, however, and in particular, events over the last 12 months show that there is still more that we must do to improve.” [9:pg. 2]

Quite obviously, however, not enough has been done as of yet in regard to police and their policies and procedures, and the existing prejudices and inconsistencies within and throughout many policing agencies have caused a number of issues with sexual assault (or rape) reporting and even with the numbers for false rape allegation statistics.

Also keep in mind, as I mentioned earlier, that there is more information on this particular topic later in the post (issues with policing procedures, et cetera), so be sure to read to the end before drawing any conclusions on the matter.

-:Poor Research Practices (Related to Policing and Procedures Especially):

Essentially, one of the major issues here, which is sometimes overlooked, under-considered or even ignored, is the police and other authorities intimidating women into silence; it is a problem that must be considered in order to derive any accurate or honest conclusions from the data. Below, I am going to mention a statistic from the FBI which is oft-quoted by MRAs that is not as valid as they believe it to be and/or present it to be (because most of the data is essentially “crap”), along with another statistic that is quoted by some which depicts an extremely high percentage of false rape accusations (this one is the number derived from the Kanin study).

Many studies show that, when a woman who feels intimidated is asked why she made a “false” accusation, she makes up an excuse. Without more precise methodology (applied during investigations, not after the fact), it becomes impossible to tell what is the lie, the accusation, or the recanting of it. Kanin [1], whom I mentioned earlier, held that the use of lie detectors was evidence that his study’s conclusions were valid, but due to his flawed methodology, the opposite could actually be said.

DNA testing, which generally became available in 1985, has led to the release of many who were falsely accused of rape (see [5]); however, DNA testing can and has been used to increase conviction rates as well. Much of the discussion in all of my sources here revolves around the complainants motives. Kanin [1] gave several exact quotes from complainants as to why they made a false allegation, which included 1) Alibi: Covering up an infidelity which might have led to pregnancy. [1:pg. 5]; 2) Revenge: Getting back at a person (typically a male) that rejected them. [1:pg. 6]; 3) Attention/Sympathy-Seeking: Generally, entirely fabricating a claim because they sought the attention of a specific person, or the attention of everyone. [1:pg. 7]

Again, the issue of fear of reprisal must be considered. Once convinced that a rape which the complainant is sure happened might still not result in a conviction due to the unreliability of lie detectors, the complainant must come up with an explanation as to why (he/she) came to the police in the first place. And, the truth in many cases, or “fear of reprisal,” simply won’t do.

Another problem is confusion of the data due to imprecise word-meaning; a great quote on this from [7] with its sources noted explains (I adjusted their source-numbers to match my own instead of theirs, as we used some of the same general references): 

“The issue is further complicated by the fact that departments often use unfounding to close cases for reasons other than the determination that they are false or baseless. [33] In practice therefore, ‘unfounded rape can and does mean many things, with false allegation being only one of them and sometimes the least of them.’ [1] Other factors commonly used as a basis for improperly unfounding a case include:

• The police are unable to locate the victim.• The victim decides not to follow through with prosecution.• The victim repeatedly changes the account of the rape.• The victim recants.• No assailant can be identified. [35]

In none of these situations is it assumed that the sexual assault did not occur, yet these cases are often improperly unfounded because they need to be administratively closed - and many departments inappropriately use unfounding rather than inactivating to do so. There are also a variety of other situations that impede or prevent completion of the investigation and in which cases are often improperly classified as ‘unfounded’.” [33]

These (probably) innocently introduced errors and omissions are compounded when they are placed into some Federal database (such as the FBI’s) where different, but similar, words are used and data must be “shoe-horned” into the closest category that makes sense (to the person filling out the form).

-:From Another Source on the 8% Statistic [4]:

“A certain percentage of rape complaints are classified as "unfounded" by the police and excluded from the FBI's statistics. For example, in 1995, 8% of all forcible rape cases were closed as unfounded, as were 15% in 1996 (Greenfeld, 1997). According to the FBI, a report should only be considered unfounded when investigation revealed that the elements of the crime were not met or the report was "false" (which is not defined) (FBI, 2007).

This statistic is almost meaningless, as many of the jurisdictions from which the FBI collects data on crime use different definitions of, or criteria for, "unfounded." That is, a report of rape might be classified as unfounded (rather than as forcible rape) if the alleged victim did not try to fight off the suspect, if the alleged perpetrator did not use physical force or a weapon of some sort, if the alleged victim did not sustain any physical injuries, or if the alleged victim and the accused had a prior sexual relationship. Similarly, a report might be deemed unfounded if there is no physical evidence or too many inconsistencies between the accuser's statement and what evidence does exist. As such, although some unfounded cases of rape may be false or fabricated, not all unfounded cases are false.” [4]

As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to the data and to all of the classifications, circumstances and information; and, the above is by no means the entirety of all that there is available to be researched.

The next important thing to discuss, which relates far more to some of the statistics out there, themselves, are a few studies and reports, done by various groups, organizations, individuals and so forth; for many of the statistics below, I will be quoting directly from Rumney [2] throughout most of it, but I am going to provide some of my own comments within the sections as well, and I am also going to score the studies based on what I felt that they deserve in terms of their validity (the positives and negatives of each study/report and their results). Keep in mind that part of the reasoning behind my scores for each study/statistic is that it is more difficult to generalize findings to the larger population when a small sample is used. With virtually all statistics, there are issues of sampling error; the smaller the sample, the larger the sampling error. Likewise, I considered the methodology used by each researcher and/or research group (as examined and explained by the studies and researchers themselves, and by Rumney, et al.).

And, just to make things as clear as possible, a few of the numbers below not in brackets were from Rumney’s original piece. I took some of these quotes from different sections of his text (and, he used some of the same sources that I’ve used for my overall post, so I noted those in my bracketed format). I also modified the formatting of his titles for each study/statistic so that they’d work better for my Blog.

This section will address many statistics, but three of these are the most important (as they are the most often cited), so keep an eye out for them as you read through this. Those percentages are: 2%, 8%, and 41%.

-:An Overview of Some False Rape Allegation Studies and Statistics (Poorer [2]):

Study Name: Kanin (1994)
Number: 45 out of 109
False Reporting Rate (%): 41%

E.J. Kanin, “False Rape Allegations” (1994) 23 Archives of Sexual Behavior p. 81 [1]

“Few studies have established clear and reliable criteria for establishing whether police recording practices give an accurate indication as to the number of rape reports that are genuinely false. One of the few studies to attempt to do this was by Kanin who examined 109 reports to the police over a 9-year period in a small metropolitan area in the Midwestern United States. Of these reports, Kanin found that the police had officially declared 45 (41%) to be false. Kanin claimed that the investigation always included a ‘serious offer’ by the police to polygraph the complainant and suspect(s) and noted that it was police department policy that a report could only be declared false if the complainant herself admitted that the allegation was untrue. 86

While this research has been described as a ‘careful study’, 87 Kanin also warns against generalising from his findings 88 and there are a number of reasons why its reliability might be questioned. First, is the uniqueness of the finding that every unfounded report resulted from a recantation by the complainant. 89 Kanin does not disclose how many complainants in his study were in fact, polygraphed, which might have provided an additional measure of reliability. Second, Kanin claims that the police acted professionally and ‘recantations did not follow prolonged periods of investigation and interrogation’. [1] However, while Kanin reports that the police in this study were very co-operative in sharing information such as case files, it is not at all apparent how he can be sure from paper records that complainants were not subjected to pressure to withdraw. Nor does he consider that the offer of a polygraph test might have represented an underlying view by officers that rape complaints, by their nature, were suspect—a view that might influence subsequent recording practice, as noted in other research. The third and perhaps most significant problem is that Kanin appears to assume that police officers abided by departmental policy in only labelling as false, those cases where the complainant admitted to fabrication. He does not consider that actual police practice, as other studies have shown, might have departed from guidelines.”

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample size; evidence of police bias.)

Study Name: Stewart (1981)
Number: 16 out of 18
False Reporting Rate (%): 90%

C.H. Stewart, “A Retrospective Survey of Alleged Sexual Assault Cases” (1981) Police Surgeon 28, 32.

"In a second survey by a police surgeon, Stewart examined 18 allegations of rape and concluded that 16 were false. Of these 16, it was claimed that the complainant admitted to making a false complaint in 14 cases. Leaving aside the small sample size of this study, Stewart gives little information as to the form or circumstances of these retractions. He does, however, refer to one instance in which he claims that the case ‘was disproved on the grounds that it was totally impossible to have removed her extremely tight undergarments from her extremely large body against her will’. However, as Temkin comments: ‘Presumably the woman was able to remove the garments herself and might have done so if, for example, she was threatened’. Other research involving police surgeons suggests a false reporting rate as low as 3%, with the most experienced police surgeons giving the lowest estimates.” [32]

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample size; evidence of police bias; fairly old data.)

Study Name: Geis (1978)
Number: n/a
False Reporting Rate (%): 3–31% (estimates given by police surgeons)

R. Geis et al., “Police Surgeons and Rape: A Questionnaire Survey” (1978)

“Police Surgeon 7, cited in Taylor, note 4 above. Geis questioned police surgeons on how many false complaints they believed they had dealt with in their careers. Estimates varied from 3% to 31%.” [17]

It is difficult to draw any real conclusions from a study which produces such a large range of possible results.

My Score: (+None.) (-Results range inconclusive; no sample size given; old data.)

Study Name: Philadelphia Police Study (1968)
Number: 74 out of 370
False Reporting Rate (%): 20%

“Police Discretion and the Judgement that a Crime Has Been Committed—Rape in Philadelphia” (1968) 117 University of Pennsylvania Law Review p. 277, 284.

“The FBI Uniform Crime Reports have shown an unfounding rate between 1966 and 1994 of 8%–20% for rape and between 2%–4% in other ‘index crimes’ such as murder or robbery. 80 The extent to which this figure can be relied upon has to be questioned. Among such a large number of agencies there is likely to be a significant variation in recording practice. For example, it was recently discovered that for nearly two decades the Philadelphia police department deliberately mislabelled rape complaints and ‘dumped cases’ by unfounding reports to reduce workload and create favourable crime statistics. One of the earliest and most detailed studies of police recording practice in the United States was a study that examined the police investigation reports for 295 reports of rape and attempted rape notified to the Philadelphia Police Department in the second half of 1966. 82 In discussions with police and other criminal justice personnel in the course of this research, the numbers of false reports were estimated at between 75% and 90%. In contrast, 20% of rape reports examined in this study were ‘unfounded’. The author examined the basis of the unfounding decision in 75 additional cases and judged them in light of the common law rules that existed at that time used to denote the veracity of rape complaints. 84 The author of this study uncritically accepted these existing common law rules and police criteria for judging a complaint as false. This might suggest that the 20% unfounding rate is too high. By contemporary standards it simply cannot be accepted that a complaint of rape be deemed false because the victim did not resist her attacker, or did not complain promptly.” [25]

It appears to me to be the case with so many of these studies that, while the study methodology may be/have been sound, or at least relatively sound, the police methods on which the results depended were/are not. An important issue raised here is the fact that, not only can and/or does police bias skew the numbers, but so do/can, too, political efforts to make a new mayor or a new police chief “look good” by comparison to his/her predecessor. Other similarly disturbing factors are the desire to reduce prison populations by reducing sentences for serious offenders, and/or all but eliminating prison times for others. This can have a psychological effect on those meting out justice (creating the need to discourage prosecution entirely).

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample size; evidence of police bias; old data.)

Study Name: Chambers and Millar (1983)
Number: 44 out of 196
False Reporting Rate (%): 22.4%

G. Chambers and A. Millar, Investigating Sexual Assault (Edinburgh 1983), 38–42.

“A further source of information that may be of help in this analysis is from interviews with police officers and rape complainants themselves. In their 1983 Scottish study of police treatment of rape, Chambers and Millar found that some decisions to no-crime were dubious, for example, where there was insufficient evidence or the complaint was withdrawn. They also found that ‘Interviews conducted with police officers indicated that some officers had fixed assumptions about how women who had been sexually assaulted ‘ought’ to behave, which, when absent, cast doubt on the complainant’s veracity’.” [26]

As was the case with the “Philadelphia Police Study (1968) [25],” the research uncovered evidence of bad police practices.

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample size; evidence of police bias.)

Study Name: HMCPSI/HMIC (2002)
Number: 164 out of 1,379
False Reporting Rate (%): 11.8%

Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate/Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, A Report on the Joint Inspection into the Investigation and Prosecution of Cases involving Allegations of Rape (2002), para. 6.18.

“The recent joint HMCPSI/HMIC report on the investigation and prosecution of rape, for example, noted that there is a ‘scarcity of research’ by police into the rate of false allegations and police recording practice.” [23]

My Score: (Undecided; difficult to determine if police bias was corrected for in the results as it was only mentioned.)

Study Name: Clark and Lewis (1977)
Number: 12 out of 116
False Reporting Rate (%): 10.3%

L. Clark and D. Lewis, Rape: The Price of Coercive Sexuality (Toronto 1977), p. 38.

“In their Canadian study, Clark and Lewis reviewed reports of rape involving victims over the age of 14 years made to the Metropolitan Toronto Police Department in 1970. In reviewing the relevant police files, Clark and Lewis examined the basis upon which reports of rape were classified as founded or unfounded. They agreed with the police decision in the 42 cases that were founded. They also identified a category of 62 cases that the police classed as unfounded, but where this decision appeared to be unrelated as to whether a rape had actually occurred. Clark and Lewis discovered that reports were unfounded where the complainant was viewed as an unsuitable witness, where there was a lack of solid corroborative evidence, and where the complainant wished to withdraw her allegation. They concluded:
‘In general, it appeared that this classification had been based either on police perceptions of the victim’s character, or on an evaluation of how successfully her case could be prosecuted ... Factual evidence that there had been no rape—which was the only justifiable basis for such a classification—was absent in every case.’

Clark and Lewis calculated that the true unfounding rate was 12 reports out of 116, amounting to 10.3%. These were cases where Clark and Lewis were of the view that there was evidence that a rape had not been committed. Of these 12 cases, it was noted that five were either reported by someone other than the complainant, and in two cases women reported under pressure from others. The reporting of false allegations by people other than the complainant is an observation reported in other research.” [20]

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample; police bias; old data.)

Study Name: New York Rape Squad (1974)
Number: n/a
False Reporting Rate (%): 2%

"Remarks of Lawrence H. Cooke, Appellate Division Justice, Before the Association of the Bar of the City of New York", 16 January 1974 (mimeo) p. 6, cited in S. Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (Harmondsworth 1975), 366, 444–445. [14]

“You can see what Susan Brownmiller was up against when she wrote her path-breaking feminist tract, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, in 1975.

In her book, Brownmiller said that only 2 percent of rape allegations are false, citing findings by the female police in a New York City rape squad. The problem is that while this statistic has been widely repeated, with dutiful mentions of New York-based ‘research,’ no one has ever tracked down its source. This we learned from a comprehensive review of the literature on false rape charges published in the Cambridge Law Journal in 2006. The author, Philip Rumney, finds a couple of small studies that back up the 2 percent claim but isn't confident of their methodology.” [6]; (see also: [14])

It is important to note here, because this is one of the significant statistics that I referenced earlier, that Brownmiller wrote her book in 1975 before widespread awareness of victim psychology had found its way into local police organizations, before media campaigns had encouraged more women to report, and before DNA testing gave woman assurance that a positive identification of their assailant was even possible. Her book was not primarily a research effort; it delved into the history of forced sex, religious traditions, and it called for a heightened awareness of the crime of sexual assault (or rape, if you prefer). She may well have picked a number convenient for the case that she was trying to make, but the number used isn't wildly off from the 8% number based on national FBI data (a range of 2-8% is not really all that outlandish statistically; most statistics have a general range that are a few numbers apart). Nevertheless, I wouldn't consider the number itself, her chosen "2%," to be a reliable figure.

My Score: (+None.) (-Uncertain sources; no sample size given; old data.)

Study Name: Gregory and Lees (1996)
Number: 49 out of 109
False Reporting Rate (%): 45%

J. Gregory and S. Lees, ‘‘Attrition and Rape in Sexual Assault Cases’’ (1996) 36 British Journal of Criminology 1, 4–5.

“Other research that has examined police recording practice also suggests misuse of the no-crime criteria. Gregory and Lees found that 50% of the no-crimed cases were designated as such on the basis of the ‘complainant’s failure to substantiate the allegation’ and noted the ‘diversity of situations covered by this category’. Indeed, they found that the no-crime label was being used in highly inappropriate circumstances such as when a complainant was unable to give evidence in court because of a heart condition or where the ‘victim obtained an injunction against the suspect and subsequently withdrew [her] allegation’.” [30]

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample; police bias.)

Study Name: Jordan (2004)
Number: 68 out of 164 // False Reporting Rate (%): 41% ("false" claims)
Number: 62 out of 164 // False Reporting Rate (%): 38% (viewed by police as "possibly true/possibly false")

J. Jordan, ‘‘Beyond Belief? Police, Rape and Women’s Credibility’’ (2004) 4 Criminal Justice. 29.

“The most up-to-date study of police recording practice in rape cases outside of England is an analysis of the New Zealand police by Jan Jordan. Crucially, this research examines how police officers determined a complaint to be false. 97 Jordan examined 164 reports of rape and sexual assault, which included analysis of police files which allowed her to examine the basis upon which officers recorded reports of rape. 98 Jordan found that 38% of cases were deemed by police to be ‘possibly true’ or ‘possibly false’, 33% were deemed as false and 8% were cases where the complainant said the allegation was false. Only 21% of cases, based on the file analysis, were viewed as genuine. Thus 41% of cases were deemed false and a further 33% could not be positively categorised as either true or false. In her analysis of the reasons for why so many cases were deemed false, Jordan found a number of factors were prominent. Delays in reporting were linked to ‘credibility concerns’, with ‘86% of complainants who had delayed reporting being viewed suspiciously’.

Other characteristics which were found in cases that were deemed false, included situations where the complainant was ‘intellectually impaired’ or ‘psychologically disturbed’, where there was concealment of information or lying, previous sexual victimisation, intoxication, complaint withdrawal or where officers perceived the complainant as ‘sluttish’ or ‘promiscuous’. Like earlier studies that have analysed police recording practice, Jordan concludes: While false complaints do occur, approximately three-quarters of the incidents concluded by the police to be false appeared to have been judged to some extent at least on the basis of stereotypes regarding the complainant’s behavior, attitude, demeanour or possible motive. Suspicious file comments were made by the detectives regarding a woman who laughed while being interviewed, others who were seen as ‘attention seeking,’ and some who were said to be ‘crying rape’ for revenge or guilt motives.

In her recent study of the New Zealand’s police, Jordan found that: ‘Maleness per se did not appear to determine the quality of an officer’s response to sexual assault victims ... while some women found it traumatic being interviewed by a man, others felt this was not so nearly as important as the officer’s attitude’. This is not to say that female officers are unimportant. The need for female officers is of clear importance, partly on the basis of victim-choice, but also because most rape complainants are female. However, whether it is male officers per se or male and female officers who do not have the attributes described by O’Reilly, who are more likely to dismiss rape complaints as false or treat victims unsympathetically, cannot be answered by reference to Brownmiller.

In her recent research, Jan Jordan acknowledged the limitations of her study, which was based on case file analysis. In discussing police scepticism of rape complainants, she stated: ‘It is virtually impossible to tell from the file evidence available whether or not such scepticism is well founded in reality or simply emanates from a police occupational trait of general suspiciousness’.” [28]

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample; extreme police bias.)

Study Name: Maclean (1979)
Number: 16 out of 34
False Reporting Rate (%): 47%

N.M. Maclean, ‘‘Rape and False Accusations of Rape’’ (1979) Police Surgeon 29, 30, 38.

“In addition to the studies of police recording practice, another source of statistics on the extent of false reporting is from research conducted by police surgeons. Maclean, for example, undertook a study of 34 rape complainants he examined between 1969 and 1974. He concluded that nearly half of these reports were either false or probably false, with three being probably genuine and 15 genuine. In this study, the major problem was the means by which Maclean determined reports to be false. It is evident that those cases where there was a delay in reporting were much more likely to be labelled as false, 35 as were cases where the victim did not appear ‘dishevelled’, where they did not appear upset or were not seriously injured. Maclean identified these as key factors in distinguishing the genuine and false accusations, though some of the cases he classed as false or probably false did include such factors as injury, prompt reporting, distress and agitation. Generally speaking it is difficult to find compelling evidence to support Maclean’s conclusion regarding the rate of false allegations because his evidence is often vague and open to contrary interpretations.” [31]

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample; old data; police bias.)

-:My Summary for the Poorer Studies/Results:

What many studies lack in large sample sizes, they make up for in consistency. Given a single city police department where police procedures, including treatment of claimants, as well as reporting procedures, are relatively fixed, one could expect to find the proper answer, but only for that single department. With the case of Kanin’s study, for instance, that number could have easily been heavily influenced by local attitudes toward the crime of rape.

As I documented above, several large U.S. cities have been found to discourage the reporting of rape by various means. It is easy to see how smaller, less sophisticated city, county and even state policing agencies might also have questionable practices in that regard.

To have a better picture of the overall reality of the situation, one must take into account that the true (including the unreported incidents) number for the rates of rape is thought to be very high in comparison to the numbers that we know of (as in, the true rate might actually be double what we know of, or more). So, for instance, an 8% number of false rape reports might really represent only 4% of total rape events. Using small, rounded numbers, if there were 100 total rape events and only 50 were reported, but in addition, 8% false rape reports were turned in, then that number would be 54 reported rapes (4 of which were false), but the 4 that were false must be considered out of the 100 that actually occurred, not just the 54 that were reported.

Anyway, now I’ll move on to another portion of studies, which were a little better than the above, but still not quite spectacular (once again from the same general sources, with the same formatting).

-:An Overview of Some False Rape Allegation Studies and Statistics (Marginally Better [2]):

Study Name: U.S. Department of Justice (1997)
Number: n/a
False Reporting Rate (%): 8%

L.A. Greenfield, Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault (US Department of Justice 1997), p. 7.

“In the United States, law enforcement agencies make a distinction between rape reports that are ‘founded’ and ‘unfounded’. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports has stated that ‘unfounding’ refers to the ‘percentage of complaints determined through investigation to be false’. The US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report from 1997 on sex offences and offenders has published data from more than 16,000 local, county and state law enforcement agencies. The Bureau found that ‘[l]aw enforcement agencies indicated that about 8% of forcible rapes reported to them were determined to be unfounded and were excluded from the count of crimes’. 79 The FBI Uniform Crime Reports have shown an unfounding rate between 1966 and 1994 of 8%–20% for rape and between 2%–4% in other ‘index crimes’ such as murder or robbery. 80 The extent to which this figure can be relied upon has to be questioned. Among such a large number of agencies there is likely to be a significant variation in recording practice. For example, it was recently discovered that for nearly two decades the Philadelphia police department deliberately mislabelled rape complaints and ‘‘dumped cases’’ by unfounding reports to reduce workload and create favourable crime statistics.” [19]

It is important to note for this statistic, despite it being included under my "marginally better" section, that it is still not necessarily all that reliable (the range is incredibly large, and paragraphs prior in this post explained some of the other serious problems with it as well. It is certainly not one which should be taken as the “absolutely true statistic” or even at face value. It is essentially almost just as questionable as the rest [due to probable inflation]).

My Score: (+Large sample size; attempt to standardize.) (-Difficulty in categorization.)

Study Name: Kelly et al. (2005)
Number: 67 out of 2,643
False Reporting Rate (%): 3% ("possible" and "probable" false allegations) // 22% (recorded by police as "no-crime")

L. Kelly et al., A gap or a chasm? Attrition in Reported Rape Cases, Home Office Research Study 293 (London 2005), 46–47.

“Recent research by Kelly et al. has found another category of technically false, but non-malicious allegations of rape.

They found a group of no-crimed cases that arose from complainants who thought they might have been sexually assaulted while asleep or intoxicated, but subsequent forensic examination indicated that no sexual contact had taken place.” [16]

My score: (+Larger sample; effort by researchers to correct police bias.) (-None.)

Study Name: Lea et al. (2003)
Number: 42 out of 379
False Reporting Rate (%): 11%

S.J. Lea et al., ‘‘Attrition in Rape Cases’’ (2003) 43 British Journal of Criminology 583, 593.

“Recent research by Lea et al. further supports the argument that the police may be using the no-crime designation in inappropriate circumstances. [Their research] indicates that significant numbers of cases are being no-crimed due to the complainant being viewed as ‘an unstable female’. The researchers note: ‘The grounds for deeming a complainant as ‘unstable’ seemed entirely dependent upon the investigating officer’s personal judgement’.” [22]

My Score: (+None.) (-Small sample; police bias mentioned, but not corrected for in their results.)

-:My Summary for the Marginally Better Studies/Results:

We should hope that, in the future, a greater number of these studies include more data/sample-points. Studies that focus on a single police department can only be expected to answer questions about that department, that city, and/or maybe the surrounding area. Too many variables exist in the ways wherein crimes are reported from various places, even in a particular country, for these types of studies to produce extremely conclusive or comprehensive/accurately representative general-results. To account for these regional differences, we must look at the FBI/USDoJ statistics for the United States, and the Crown statistics for the United Kingdom.

It is noteworthy that, where studies indicated a high rate of false rape reports, those studies also included either a small sample size, only a single city being studied, or both. Even though differences in reporting practices from one police agency to another make comparisons from city-to-city difficult, the large number of cases under consideration make studies involving the FBI/USDoJ seem more reliable, in that errors which might be introduced in one city due to recording errors, police procedures or regional differences in mores, may eventually average or even out because of the larger sample-bases.

As noted in Rumney’s paper, the exact source of Brownmiller’s 2% number is in doubt, but others have echoed similar low figures (converged at a similar lower point, which tends to be more reliable). It is fairly possible that the awareness raised by Brownmiller’s book has, over the years, had the effect of improving both police methods as well as research data. Combined with other scientific advancements (such as DNA testing), we should favor more recent studies over those done, roughly speaking, prior to the mid-eighties (along with those with smaller sample sizes, for the aforementioned noted reasons).

-:A Litany of the Remaining/Lesser Studies/Statistics (From Rumney [2]):

Study Name: Theilade and Thomsen (1986)
Number: 1 out of 56 // False Reporting Rate (%): 1.5% (minimum)
Number: 4 out of 39 // False Reporting Rate (%): 10% (maximum)

P. Theilade and J.L. Thomsen, ‘‘False Allegations of Rape’’ (1986) 30 Police Surgeon 17.

“An integral part of the 2% figure is the claim that the false reporting rate for rape is no higher than for other offences. Yet rarely do scholars actually cite studies of false complaints for offences other than rape. The findings from studies of false reporting in non-sexual assault cases would appear to be inconclusive. In a direct comparison with rape complaints and those involving non-sexual assaults, Theilade and Thomsen found that the highest rate of false complaints was for non-sexual assault.” [13]

My Score: (+None) (-Small sample size; not enough information.)

Study Name: Hursch and Selkin (1974)
Number: 10 out of 545
False Reporting Rate (%): 2%

C.J. Hursch and J. Selkin, Rape Prevention Research Project Mimeographed Annual Report of the Violence Research Unit, Division of Psychiatric Service, Department of Health and Hospitals, Denver, 1974, cited in S. Katz and M.A. Mazur, Understanding the Rape Victim: A Synthesis of Research Findings (New York 1979) ch. 13. [15]

My Score: (+None) (-Old data; not enough additional information.)

Study Name: Smith (1989)
Number: 17 out of 447
False Reporting Rate (%): 3.8%

L.J.F. Smith, Concerns About Rape, Home Office Research Study 106 (London 1989), pp. 8, 23–24. [18]

“In England and Scotland there have been a number of studies that have examined how the police record complaints of rape and provide important evidence on the police no-criming of rape reports. The first study to be discussed examined the recording of rape complaints in two London boroughs between 1984 and 1986. 20 One of the areas of investigation for this study was how Home Office circular 69/1986 altered recording practices. As already noted above, this circular was an attempt to encourage police officers to record rape complaints more accurately and to avoid the use of the ‘‘no-crime’’ label in inappropriate cases. Smith found that the circular had a significant impact in that there was a 50% increase in criming of rape reports during the three-year period under review. 21 During this time there were 447 allegations of rape reported to the police, of which 215 were not recorded as offences. In contravention of circular 69/1986, nearly half of these 215 cases (101) were not recorded because of ‘insufficient evidence’, with another 91 not recorded because the complainant withdrew the allegation. Included within the category of cases not recorded were only 17 complaints that were deemed to be malicious, a rate of 3.8% of the total number of reported cases. 22 However, this study, as acknowledged by its author, was limited. Smith notes that it was not possible to tell whether reports that were not recorded because of insufficient evidence, may in fact, have been false.”


“Parker and Brown also cite this study and accurately note ‘just under half of these cases were thought to have been false or malicious allegations’. 164 In other words, in a significant number of cases, the no-crime criteria are being applied to allegations that are not deemed false or malicious. Yet as becomes apparent, the unreliability of the no-crime criteria for judging a complaint to be false, does not impact on what would appear to be an underlying assumption that crime reports involving sexual offences are particularly problematic. They cite a Home Office study that found a no-crime rate of 45% and while noting a drop in this rate as reported by Smith, they did not note that the rate measured by Smith was 3.8%.”

My Score: (+Noted police bias.) (-Relatively inconclusive.)

Study Name: McCahill et al. (1979)
Number: 218 out of 1,198
False Reporting Rate (%): 18.2%

T.W. McCahill et al., The Aftermath of Rape (Lexington 1979), p. 115. [24]

My Score: (+None.) (-Not enough information.)

Study Name(s): Harris and Grace (1999); Grace et al. (1992)
Number (Grace): 80 out of 335 // False Reporting Rate (%): 24%
Number (Harries and Grace): 53 out of 483 // False Reporting Rate (%): 10.9% ("false/malicious" claims)
Number (Harris and Grace): 123 out of 483 // False Reporting Rate (%): 25% (recorded by police as "no-crime")

S. Grace et al., Rape: From Recording to Conviction (London 1992), 6.

J. Harris and S. Grace, A Question of Evidence? Investigating and Prosecuting Rape in the 1990s (London 1999), 14.

“For an offence to be no-crimed the circular sets out two criteria: that the complainant retracts the allegation and admits to fabrication. [27] These criteria are clearly strict. To what extent they may result in some complaints being crimed, when they are in fact false, cannot be established using the existing research literature. In this respect, Harris and Grace quote one police officer thus: ‘If rape was treated as any other crime you would probably no-crime a lot more. But because rape is treated as something special, and indeed it is a serious crime, it is much more difficult to no-crime it’.

In their Home Office survey, Harris and Grace found that of forty cases involving complainants with a learning disability or mental health problem, 22 were no-crimed ‘usually because they were believed to be false’ and 18 were designated as involving no further action.”

My Score: (+Identified police and policy/practice issues; attempted to correct for police bias.) (-Small sample sizes; relatively inconclusive.)

-:Supplementary Information (Repeat Offender Data and Sex of Victim/Perpetrator Data):

For rapes that never go prosecuted, there may be a significant number of repeat offenders (those who know how to commit the crime and elude justice); Lisak and Miller [11] attempted to quantify this among prison populations:

“Pooling data from four samples in which 1,882 men were assessed for acts of interpersonal violence, we report on 120 men whose self-reported acts met legal definitions of rape or attempted rape, but who were never prosecuted by criminal justice authorities. A majority of these undetected rapists were repeat rapists, and a majority also committed other acts of interpersonal violence. The repeat rapists averaged 5.8 rapes each. The 120 rapists were responsible for 1,225 separate acts of interpersonal violence, including rape, battery, and child physical and sexual abuse.” [11:synopsis, pg. 1]
“The goal of the present study was to determine the proportion of self-reported rapists who commit multiple acts of rape undetected by the criminal justice system and to examine whether some proportion of rapists also admit to other forms of interpersonal violence. Further, we sought to study whether repeat rapists were responsible for a disproportionate share of this undetected interpersonal violence.” [11:pg. 3]
“There are numerous difficulties inherent in collecting potentially incriminating information from research subjects, particularly regarding sexual behavior that is generally considered to be deviant. Yet, there is considerable evidence supporting the viability of this enterprise. Delinquency researchers during the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated the validity of self-report assessments of criminal behavior, in some cases verifying self-reports through polygraph administration or through cross-referencing with already-known offenses (Clark & Tifft, 1966; Gibson, Morrison, & West, 1970; Gold, 1966).” [11:pg. 3]

Number of rapists who committed single and multiple numbers of rape. [11:pg. 7]

One of the important conclusions of Lisak and Miller is as follows:

“A majority of the undetected rapists in this sample were repeat offenders. Almost two thirds of them raped more than once, and a majority also committed other acts of interpersonal violence, such as battery, child physical abuse, and child sexual abuse. These repeat rapists each committed an average of six rapes and/or attempted rapes and an average of 14 interpersonally violent acts. Within the universe of 3,698 violent acts that the 1,882 men in this sample were responsible for, the 76 repeat rapists by themselves accounted for 1,045 of that total. That is, representing only 4% of the sample, the repeat rapists accounted for 28% of the violence. Their level of violence was nearly ten times that of non-rapists, and nearly three and a half times that of single-act rapists.

The evidence that a relatively small proportion of men are responsible for a large number of rapes and other interpersonal crimes may provide at least a partial answer to an oft noted paradox: namely, that while victimization surveys have established that a substantial proportion of women are sexually victimized, relatively small percentages of men report committing acts of sexual violence (e.g., Rubenzahl & Corcoran, 1998). In this sample of 1,882 men, 76 (4%) individuals were responsible for an estimated 439 rapes and attempted rapes.” [11:pg. 8]

Lawrence A. Greenfeld at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, while verifying the general prevalence of rape (particularly in relation to male-on-female acts), also seems to come to different conclusions about perpetrators:

“Rape and sexual assault offenders account for just under 5% of the total correctional population in the United States:

Since 1980 the average annual growth in the number of prisoners has been about 7.6%. The number of prisoners sentenced for violent sexual assault other than rape increased by an annual average of nearly 15%—faster than any other category of violent crime and faster than all other categories except drug trafficking.

Rapists and sexual assaulters serving time in State prisons were less likely to have had a prior conviction history or a history of violence than other incarcerated violent offenders, though they were substantially more likely to have had a history of convictions for violent sex offenses.

In two 3-year BJS followups of samples of felons placed on probation and of felons released from prison, rapists had a lower rate of rearrest for a new violent felony than most other categories of offenders convicted of violence. Yet, rapists were more likely than others to be re-arrested for a new rape.” [12:pp. 3-4]

Number of Victimizations

Year: 1993 // Experienced: 485,000 // Reported to Law Enforcement: 140,000
Year: 1994 // Experienced: 433,000 // Reported to Law Enforcement: 137,000
Year: 1995 // Experienced: 355,000 // Reported to Law Enforcement: 113,000

Source: BJS, National Crime Victimization Survey. (rev. 2/7/97) [12]

“For both 1994 and 1995 the percentage of rape/sexual assault victimizations reported to a law enforcement agency was 32%. The most common reason given by victims of rape/sexual assault for reporting the crime to the police was to prevent further crimes by the offender against them. The most common reason cited by the victim for not reporting the crime to the police was that it was considered a personal matter.

In 1994 victims reported about 1 rape/sexual assault victimization of a female victim for every 270 females in the general population; for males, the rate was substantially lower, with about 1 rape/sexual assault of a male victim for every 5,000 male residents age 12 or older.

Per capita rates of rape/sexual assault were found to be highest among residents age 16 to 19, low-income residents, and urban residents. There were no significant differences in the rate of rape/sexual assault among racial groups.

Overall, an estimated 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault were female. Nearly 99% of the offenders they described in single-victim incidents were male.” (Emphasis Added.) [12]

One obvious reason for all of this is that the BJS, as a government body, is forced to look at convictions alone (they cannot merely rely on survey data). And yet, it is the results of the survey data from Lisak and Miller that might explain the discrepancy between higher and lower rape statistic rates. Simply put, many rapists do not get caught, or if they are caught, they do not get convicted.

-:Further Study [9]:

“1. In January 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to require all CPS Areas to refer to him any case in which a person who was said to have made a false complaint of rape and/or domestic violence was being considered for prosecution. He wished personally to oversee all charging decisions in these cases, because of the particular difficulties and sensitivities which can arise.
2. This report analyses the 159 charging decisions made over a seventeen month period between January 2011 and May 2012. Of these: (a) 121 involved an allegedly false allegation of rape (b) 27 involved allegedly false allegations of domestic violence, that is to say, assaults of a non-sexual nature between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, and (c) 11 involved both rape and domestic violence.
3. In this report the expression ‘suspect’ is used to describe the person who has allegedly made the false complaint and is being considered for prosecution.
4. Whilst it is not an exact science, it may be instructive to compare the figures for those prosecuted for making a false allegation with the number of prosecutions for rape, sexual assaults and domestic violence which took place during the same period:

(i) there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape, and 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape (that's .62%; recent data).

(ii) there were 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence, and 610 for making false allegations of domestic violence.
6. In November 2010, the Court of Appeal dealt with the case of R v A. The facts were as follows:

i. Ms A had reported to the police that she had been raped on three occasions by her husband, against a background of other domestic violence. As a result of her complaint, he was arrested and charged.

ii. Some weeks later, Mrs A told the police that she no longer wished her husband to be prosecuted and that, whilst what she had said was true, they were now reconciled and she wanted to retract her allegations. Following careful consideration, the CPS Area decided that the prosecution should continue, because cases involving serious offences such as rape are not merely a private matter between the parties.

iii. Upon being told that the case would continue, Mrs A said that she had lied in her statements and that her husband had never raped or otherwise assaulted her. This meant that there was no longer any evidence against him and therefore the case was stopped. The decision was made to charge Ms A herself with perverting the course of justice on the basis that she had made false allegations against her husband, who had as a result spent some time in custody awaiting trial.

iv. However, after she was charged, Ms A then said that in fact the original allegations had been true. As a result she was further charged (in the alternative) with perverting the course of justice, on the basis that she had falsely withdrawn a true allegation. This situation is known as a 'double retraction'.

v. Ms A pleaded guilty, but on the basis that her original allegations of rape were true and she had lied when she said that they were not. She was sentenced by the Crown Court to eight months’ imprisonment, which was reduced by the Court of Appeal to a community order.
7. This case caused the CPS to consider whether the decision to prosecute Ms A had been in the public interest, because prosecuting her for falsely retracting her allegations involved of necessity accepting that she had in fact been a victim of rape.”


As all of the above makes clear, these are tremendously complex issues, and while I have presented a large amount of information here, these things are by no means the entirety of all that there is out there; I did this post so as to provide some useful information and data for everyone interested in this general subject, because these are important issues, and due to the fact that these are frequently discussed topics amongst those who debate sex and gender issues online, all of this is, of course, relevant to me as well.

False rape reports/allegations are by no means subjects which are as black-and-white as people like some MRAs and Feminists tend to pretend that they are (or often present them to be); the whole of these issues paints a picture of varying influence from institutional and social/societal factors which affect the results that cannot be ignored, dismissed or overlooked, and the 8% statistic, along with many other oft-cited figures, must not simply be taken at face value as being absolutely true or as being object “facts.” The data for these statistics is simply not that reliable at the moment.

In fact, it is easily arguable that none of the current statistics out there can be taken at face value as being realistically representative of whatever the actuality of these issues might be. All of the elements that play into the ways wherein the events that produce the known-data take place influence the outcomes greatly, and until many of those problems, as discussed at length above, are corrected (which is not necessarily absolutely possible, and certainly has not transpired yet), it must be remembered that the rates are not to be taken as the objective truth or as extremely reliable facts (because, as I stated earlier in this post, the rates are simply not that dependable currently).

It is agreed, generally, that the occurrence of false reports of rape is a rarity, and a majority of the more reliable rates appear to converge at similar lower percentages, but nevertheless, false allegations and reports of rape are still an important issue; false reports of rape are harmful not only to the wrongly accused, but also to real victims of violent crime (who already have difficulties with being believed by extension as a consequence of those who truly do lie).

However, individuals such as MRAs would like to present this issue as being an epidemic, which it is not (it does not even qualify as “endemic”). And, they would like to present percentages (such as 8% or 41%) as being absolutely true and reliable, when in fact, those statistics are essentially almost equally as questionable as all of the other percentages out there (they are certainly not, as I stated before, numbers to be taken at face value as the absolute truth, or as absolute and/or extremely reliable facts). One must always consider all of the other influences and factors which amalgamate to bring to life this sort of data (or these sorts of results). All of that is just as important as the primary issue itself (false rape allegations).

Anyway, I may return to this post at a later date to add more information to it. I would advise all who read this post to check out some of my sources below and to do a bit of research on this subject on their own, as there is more in those references than I included here, and as there is more information out there on these issues than I have presented here. This topic, or false rape allegations, is a nuanced and multifaceted issue, and it should be thoroughly researched and considered before drawing any real and/or final conclusions about any particular results/statistics or sets-of-data.

Thank you all for reading.

Author: Krista [@Femitheist]
NOTE I: If I have made any carryover/formatting errors in this post, or any other errors that I notice, I will come back to adjust the text at a later time; and, as I mentioned above, I may also add more to this post at another date. But, this is all for now. Hope everyone enjoys it!

NOTE II: Also, any time MRAs reference the “8%” statistic to you, or mention false rape allegations, just link them to this post, and let them read about the greater details for themselves. And, do the same with Feminists who reference the invalid “2%” figure as well.

NOTE III: The purpose of this piece was not to claim what the “absolutely true” rate of false rape allegations is, nor was it to argue that false rape allegations do not “actually” occur. Likewise, its point was not to state that false accusations of rape are not an important issue, because they certainly are.

This post is merely an analysis and discussion of some of the known studies and statistics in circulation, the weaknesses and strengths of the items, and a few other related factors (e.g., police bias).

No one knows, for certain, what the true rate of false rape allegations is (as demonstrated in this post), but the information out there can be evaluated for reliability, and a discussion of some of the other elements which affect the known rates can be had, and that is what this post is; that is its purpose.

It allows people an opportunity to do more thinking about these issues, rather than simply accepting numbers, because they're "statistics," at face value. There is far more to these issues than that.
All References (Last Accessed on March 18, 2014):

[1] “False Rape Allegations” by Eugene J. Kanin Ph.D. https://ia600406.us.archive.org/1/items/FalseRapeAllegations/false-rape-allegations-archive.pdf

[2] Rumney, P. (2006) False allegations of rape. The Cambridge Law Journal, 65 (1). 125 -158. ISSN 1469-2139 http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/6478/1/Dow

[3] "False Allegations of Sexual Assualt: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases" David Lisak1, Lori Gardinier2, Sarah C. Nicksa2, and Ashley M. Cote2 http://www.icdv.idaho.gov/conference/handouts/False-Allegations.pdf

[4] "False Rape Allegations: An Assault On Justice" By Bruce Gross, PhD, JD, MBA http://www.theforensicexaminer.com/archive/spring09/15/

[5] The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. http://www.innocenceproject.org/

[6] How Often Do Women Falsely Cry Rape http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2009/10/how_often_do_women_falsely_cry_rape.single.html

[7] "Successfully Investigating Acquaintance Sexual Assault" The National Center for Women and Policing http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/acquaintsa/participant/allegations.pdf

[8] Violence against Women and Girls - Crime Report 2011-2012 Equality and Diversity Unit - October 2012 http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/cps_vawg_report_2012.pdf

[9] CHARGING PERVERTING THE COURSE OF JUSTICE AND WASTING POLICE TIME IN CASES INVOLVING ALLEGEDLY FALSE RAPE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ALLEGATIONS - Joint report to the Director of Public Prosecutions by Alison Levitt QC, Principal Legal Advisor, and the Crown Prosecution Service Equality and Diversity Unit http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/perverting_course_of_justice_march_2013.pdf

[10] (Unused; Only Readhttp://www.feministcritics.org/blog/2013/01/12/the-truth-about-enlivens-2-false-accusation-figure-part-1-noh/

[11] Lisak, David, and Paul M. Miller. "Repeat rape and multiple offending among undetected rapists." Violence and victims 17.1 (2002): 73-84. http://www.wcsap.org/sites/www.wcsap.org/files/uploads/webinars/SV%20on%20Campus/Repeat%20Rape.pdf

[12] Greenfeld, Lawrence A. Sex offenses and offenders: An analysis of data on rape and sexual assault. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, 1997.

[13] P. Theilade and J.L. Thomsen, ‘‘False Allegations of Rape’’ (1986) 30 Police Surgeon 17

[14] S. Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (Harmondsworth 1975) http://books.google.com/books?id=jaWqAAAAQBAJ (Updated edition.)

[15] HURSCH, CJ, and J. SELKIN. "DENVER-RAPE PREVENTION RESEARCH PROJECT-FINAL REPORT." (1975). https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=42911

[16] Kelly, Liz, Jo Lovett, and Linda Regan. A gap or a chasm?: attrition in reported rape cases. London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, 2005.

[17] R. Geis et al., ‘‘Police Surgeons and Rape: A Questionnaire Survey’’ (1978) https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=119032

[18] Smith, Lorna JF. Concerns about rape. HM Stationery Office, 1989.

[19] Greenfield, L. A. "Sex Offenses & Offenders: An analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault. 1997." US Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics: Washington, DC (1998).

[20] Clark, Lorenne MG, and Debra J. Lewis. Rape: The price of coercive sexuality. Toronto: Women's Press, 1977. https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=44834

[21] Harris, Jessica, and Sharon Grace. A question of evidence?: Investigating and prosecuting rape in the 1990s. London: Home Office, 1999. https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=180356

[22] Lea, Susan J., Ursula Lanvers, and Steve Shaw. "Attrition in rape cases. Developing a profile and identifying relevant factors." British Journal of Criminology 43.3 (2003)

[23] (Not Independently Located) Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate/Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, A Report on the Joint Inspection into the Investigation and Prosecution of Cases involving Allegations of Rape (2002)

[24] (Not Independently Located) T.W. McCahill et al., The Aftermath of Rape (Lexington 1979)

[25] (Not Independently Located) ‘‘Police Discretion and the Judgement that a Crime Has Been Committed—Rape in Philadelphia’’ (1968) 117 University of Pennsylvania Law Review

[26] (Not Independently Located) G. Chambers and A. Millar, Investigating Sexual Assault (Edinburgh 1983)

[27] (Not Independently Located) J. Harris and S. Grace, A Question of Evidence? Investigating and Prosecuting Rape in the 1990s (London 1999)

[28] J. Jordan, ‘‘Beyond Belief? Police, Rape and Women’s Credibility’’ http://www.d.umn.edu/cla/faculty/jhamlin/3925/4925HomeComputer/Rape%20myths/Police.pdf

[29] "Successfully Investigating Acquaintance Sexual Assault: A National Training Manual for Law Enforcement" Dr. Kimberly A. Lonsway, Research Director, National Center for Women & Policing

[30] Gregory, Jeanne, and Sue Lees. "Attrition in rape and sexual assault cases."British Journal of Criminology 36.1 (1996) http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/36/1/1.short

[31] MacLean, N. M. "Rape and false accusations of rape." Police Surgeon 15 (1979): 29-40. https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=67981

[32] (Not Independently Located) C.H. Stewart, ‘‘A Retrospective Survey of Alleged Sexual Assault Cases’’

[33] (Not Independently Located) Aiken, Margaret M. "False allegation. A concept in the context of rape." Journal of psychosocial nursing and mental health services 31.11 (1993): 15-20.

[34] Root I, Ogden W, Scott W: The Medical Investigation of Alleged Rape. West J Med 120:329-333,Apr 1974 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1129457/pdf/westjmed00308-0091.pdf

[35] Ledray, L.E. (1999). Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): Development & Operation Guide. Manual prepared under grant number 96-VF-GX-K012, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

[36] Investigation of the New Orleans Police Department, New Orleans, Louisiana http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/nopd.php

[37] Lisa R. Avalos, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Arkansas School of Law, Alexandra Filippova, J.D. class of 2013, Cynthia Reed, J.D. class of 2014, Matthew Siegel, J.D. class of 2013 Georgetown University Law Center http://www.womenagainstrape.net/sites/default/files/final_paper_for_war_9-23.pdf

[38] How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents By Solomon L. Wisenberg http://corporate.findlaw.com/litigation-disputes/how-to-avoid-going-to-jail-under-18-u-s-c-section-1001-for-lying.html

[39] Capitol Offense Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/01/24/us-dc-police-mishandle-sexual-assault-cases

[40] National Institute of Justice: Reporting of Sexual Violence Incidents http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/pages/rape-notification.aspx#
Supplementary Resources (Last Accessed on March 18, 2014):

1) http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/13/false-allegations-rape-domestic-violence-rare

2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape (Debunks Kanin.)

3) Good Slate Article: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2009/10/how_often_do_women_falsely_cry_rape.html

4) “Clearance” data represents a crude way of measuring false reports by instead measuring convictions: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/clearance-browse-by/national-data (Follow the links on this page.)

Also here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/clearances

5) http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/perverting_course_of_justice_march_2013.pdf (Recent CPS study.)

6) http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/cps_vawg_report_2012.pdf (Conviction rate increases, graph and tables, after better training of officials.)

7) http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/september-2012/false-allegations-of-adult-crimes

8) http://www.ncdsv.org/images/SoHowManyRapeReportsareFalse.pdf (A decent discussion.)

9) http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ERORecords/HO/421/2/P2/RDS/PDFS/HORS196.PDF (For England and Wales.)

10) http://www.justice.gov/publications/publications_r.html (General resource.)

11) http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/NACJD/ (Raw-data-goldmine.)

12) http://www.bjs.gov/ucrdata/ (Online data-building-tool.)

13) http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fvsv9410.pdf (Tangent.)

14) http://bjc.oxfordjournals.org/content/52/6/1152.full (The Truth, The Half-Truth, and Nothing Like the Truth: Reconceptualizing False Allegations of Rape.)

15) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_accusation_of_rape#cite_note-16

16) http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_3_no_1_2009.pdf (Quotes a rather "weird" [bad] report.)

17) http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_1_no_4_2006.pdf

18) http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/the_voice_vol_1_no_7_06.pdf

19) http://www.ncdsv.org/ncd_linkssexviolence.html (Numerous activist-links.)

20) http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/Reports%20and%20Studies/rape-in-america.pdf?sfvrsn=0