One Reason Why False Rape Allegation Statistics Are So High

Guest Post by Dana Hunter (originally published on En Tequila Es Verdad at FreeThought Blogs)

Men, even good men, believe women lie about rape. There’s this myth that runs amok saying that some enormous proportion of rape accusations are just women lying to get attention, or revenge, or to hide their summer fling from mommy and daddy. And they believe it without question.

When male friends toss that grenade at me, I toss it back by asking if they know what the percentage is. “Fifty percent,” they’ll say, or above, depending on which MRAs their stats are coming from.

“It’s two to eight percent,” I say, and I need to remember to never do this when they’re walking or have something in their mouths, because the good ones are always staggered, and they always gasp. “But even those numbers are on the high side.”

A red pencil tip breaking on a white surface

Image courtesy of Tim Fields via Flickr

I don’t need to go in to detail with the good ones. I don’t need to do more than remind them what actually happens to women who report. They realize immediately that very few people would be so motivated by some other factor that they would willingly subject themselves to the hell that is rained down upon rape victims. And then I remind them that while our culture often makes reporting a rape worse than the rape itself, when it comes to male victims, it’s damned near impossible to report at all. And if you’re a trans* person? Hell doesn’t even begin to describe it. Once we have finished that brief survey of Rape Culture Today, the good ones never spout nonsense statistics again.

For those who stubbornly wish to believe that bitches be lyin’, I can point them at studies. I have before and will again. But in the future, I will first make them chew on this “false” rape allegation statistic until their teeth break.

CONTENT NOTE FOR ABOVE LINK: Massive trigger warning for graphic description of violent sexual assault and horrific treatment by law enforcement

Now, some of them will spit out that report along with their shattered teeth and flap their bleeding gums at me: “That’s just an anecdote.” And that is true. It is just one data point behind the 2-8%. Since we are Good Skeptics™, we know to look beyond anecdotes.

So let me add in a study of police attitudes toward rape victims. It would seem EEB isn’t alone, then. And if we could factor in the victims who never reported at all because of shit like this, that “false” rape allegation statistic would drop like a rock. Since they don’t, the statistics are skewed, making “false” allegations look more prevalent.

Now add the horrific treatment victims experience from defense attorneys who believe they’re scum. I can tell you from experience this can be worse than the rape. It can be a form of torture, and like torture victims, some rape victims will recant just to make the pain stop. Magically, their allegation is now “false.” But they’re no less raped, and the rapist is no less a sexual predator.

Add in the fact that some rapists have the lock on society, and can crush their victims. If their victims had the courage to report, they’ve soon got their buddies to sweep the crime under the rug. And another several ticks are added in the “false” rape allegation column.

Add in children who receive such a terrifying reaction to their attack that they recant just to protect themselves. More “false” rape allegations.

What about victims who aren’t supported by friends and family because many cultures make it easier to believe the victims are filthy, disgusting, crazy liars rather than people suffering from sexual assault? I think you know what happens to the statistics by now.

Add in the fact that some police departments don’t make a distinction between “reports that are actually, genuinely, provably false” and “reports that can’t be prosecuted due to statute of limitations, lack of evidence, or some other reason, but no doubt the victim was assaulted.” Both numbers end up counting under “false” allegations, although a sizable percentage weren’t false at all.

Add in about a trillion circumstances I haven’t remembered to include. Compare that to the enormous number of rapes and sexual assaults.

A pale-skinned dark-haired woman wearing sunglasses has a large piece of tape covering her mouth.  On the tape is written STILL NOT BRAVE ENOUGH TO GO TO POLICE

Image courtesy roga muffin via Flickr

The reality is that false rape allegations are a tiny bit of flotsam on a sea of rape. Even if that 2-8% number were accurate, it would still be far too small to use to discount rape allegations out of hand. The fact that even that tiny percentage is inflated by cases like EEB’s should ensure that every decent human being treat victims’ reports as provisionally true. The idea that most or even many rape allegations are false is an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence. Those who continue to insist otherwise have forfeited any right to be considered good people.

About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

5 comments on “One Reason Why False Rape Allegation Statistics Are So High

  1. I am saddened that in the over 25 years since I was 1st raped and chose not to report for many if the above reasons the situation is still as it was. When will women be seen and treated as equal human beings?

  2. I agree with you Dana. False allegations are a very tiny minority which the media grossly exaggerates and consequently deters many women from reporting sexual crimes.
    Less than 1 in 10 are currently reported.
    However another concerning issue is the ‘attrition’ policy used by police whereby they reduce the number of possible prosecutions by arguing that the victim doesn’t have sufficient evidence. This is an excuse which means the police have not made a sufficient investigation and do not intend to pursue an investigation of examining the suspect.

    Independent on Sunday found the police are deliberately ignoring investigations especially sexual and domestic violence. It was established recently that the Sapphire Rape Unit in South London ignored many women who reported rape in 2009. A few of the accused were later imprisoned by different police stations who investigated when later victims reported them:

    domestic violence and rape are recidivist crimes.

    When I raised this via Twitter with prominent feminists they were unaware if there was any governemnt inquiry. Some officers from the Sapphire unit have received promotions and none have been brought to account.

    I have been pursuing a case of a gang of knife carying youths in South London, who’s crimes include the racial abuse and threats to a black woman near her 3 year old child. The police investigation was brief and perfunctory despite that the people who committed it are part of repeated crimes for 4 or more years.
    A seperate case in a different London borough, the CID have refused to investigate the homicide of a woman despite a number of medical, legal and police professionals saying the circumstances are blatently indicative of murder.

    Violence and rape are not only underreported but are being repeatedly ignored when they are reported. Every time a woman or child is highlighted as being failed by soical services and the police, their PR states “lessons have been learned”, yet the repeated occurrence of these failings proves the claims by the government and the police are false.

  3. Fascinating and informative post. I was wondering if you knew of any surveys of social perceptions of how many rape accusations are false (i.e.: people asked to give a percentage). I’ve personally encountered men and women who have offered the 50%(ish) answer, but it would be interesting to know the wider statistics.

  4. I think it’s worth pointing out, too, that: 1) Most crimes can, and are, falsely reported from time to time, so this is not a unique omg-women-are-so-mean-to-men thing. 2) False crime reports are discovered are when the police are pursuing the case as if a genuine crime has taken place.

    Recently, there was a local restaurant that burned down. The owner has just been sent to jail for insurance fraud, as it was discovered that he paid people to do it for him. It was flagrant, inexcusable behavior that put the lives and property of other people at risk. He was caught. He’s being punished. The public is understandably upset with him.

    But the night that the building first burned down? The news was reporting it as a tragedy for this poor businessman. People were speculating about a gas leak, or a car that collided with a pipeline, or even arson, but nobody, not even the police, started with the assumption that this fire was in any way the fault of the owner. No one thought to suggest, “Oh, come on, you know he wanted it” (even though, in the end, he actually did).

    This is the opposite of what happens with rape cases.

    I don’t understand why people imagine that, if we take women seriously about rape claims, suddenly innocent men will start getting hauled off to prison by the truckloads. If the evidence is there, a real rapist will go to jail. If the evidence is inconclusive, nobody will be prosecuted (which is still awful for the wronged party, but it also doesn’t actively, unjustly punish them). If the evidence shows the claim to be false, then the liar will be punished and the innocent party will be exonerated.

    Now, I understand that this all hinges on the justice system actually working, but it’s the same system that we trust to deal with any other type of crime one human being can enact upon another. If we don’t automatically assume that every arson victim is committing insurance fraud, or that every victim of theft is simply expressing regret over having given a gift, then it ought to be easy not to assume that rape victims are lying about what happened to them.

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