Sunday, May 07, 2006

False Allegations Of Rape Not Common Or Are They?

The Countess
As I had expected, the news about the woman who has been ordered by a judge to take her children to see their father, the man who had raped her, is bringing out the claims by men's rights activists that women frequently falsely accuse men of rape. A big problem is including unfounded cases with cases of outright false allegations. When a rape case is deemed unfounded, it does not mean the woman was lying.

This blog continues with some excellent information on how statistics on rape cases may feed into the myth that most rape allegations are false and therefore no rape occurred.

Fox News

"Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing...."

There is a huge flaw in using this data to say that 25% of the sexual assaults reported didn't happen and therefore 25% of the alleged rape victims are liars.

In many of the cases handled by the Innocence Project (where the quote above came from), those cleared through DNA testing were convicted of rape/murders. So making a direct correlation between a DNA mismatch and a false allegation (as the phrase is commonly used) would mean that no murder occurred. Since we know this isn't true, the use of this data is meaningless in determining the percentage of alleged victims (in non-lethal rape cases) who lie about being raped.

An alarming national trend: False Rape Allegations by Eugene J. Kanin, Ph.D.

The investigation of all rape complaints always involves a serious offer to polygraph the complainants and the suspects. Additionally, for a declaration of false charge to be made, the complainant must admit that no rape had occurred. She is the sole agent who can say that the rape charge is false.


First, with very few exceptions, these complainants were suspect at the time of the complaint or within a day or two after charging. These recantations did not follow prolonged periods of investigation and interrogation that would constitute anything approximating a second assault. Second, not one of the detectives believed that an incident of false recantation had occurred. They argued, rather convincingly, that in those cases where a suspect was identified and interrogated, the facts of the recantation dovetailed with the suspect’s own defense

The investigation process used as the basis of this study raises a huge red flag. Even though the official stance is that all rape allegations are investigated fully, it's clear that in the recanted cases investigators quickly assumed the accusers to be liars. Combine that assumption with the polygraph and you've got everything you need to get false confessions (and false retractions).

In the city studied by Kanin, there is no mention whether the recantations were given in response to a threat of criminal charges against those who reported rape or whether the recantations were influenced by a "We investigated your allegations and know you weren't raped. What really happened was ____, isn't that right?" type of questioning.

It would be fascinating if someone did a survey of all those who made rape reports in that city during the period of Kanin's study to see how they would evaluate the police response and ethics. If they were asked: "Were you pressured to recant your rape allegation?" what percent would answer yes?

About reports of a 50% rate of false rape reports on campus referred to by Kanin, I suspect the high rate is due to combination of a mismatch in where people draw the line between "real" rape and unwanted but non-criminal sexual contact and the college's desire to look as safe as possible. Likely the campus police would ask questions to see if the alleged victim did anything wrong or "stupid," and if the answer was yes then the campus police could decide that what happened to her couldn't be rape.

In my post Abyss2hope: Gang rape and university culture - a case study the gang rape describedwasn't classified by the university as a rape. In fact if it were included in a study like Kanin's it very well could be classified as a false allegation of rape.

The bottom line is I can't find a single scientific reason to believe the claims that more rape reports are false allegations than any other type of serious crime.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:13 AM   0 comments links to this post


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