For me the answer to this question is no. A lack of supporting evidence can happen in both false and true reports of rape. To move from unknown status to verified true or verified false requires evidence.
But for police in Bellingham, Washington the answer seems to be yes, a lack of evidence does equal a false rape report. Or at least that is the impression being created by all the stories I can find on the announcement by the police that a rape reported on March 2 never happened.
From KOMO Radio:
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Police say a woman made up a story that she was raped while jogging at a Bellingham park last month. Deputy Chief Flo Simon says there was no evidence from a hospital, crime lab or at the scene that the 39-year-old woman was attacked March 2 as she described. Simon says the woman, who still believes she was assaulted, was taken into protective custody Wednesday, a process that may include a mental evaluation.
If all the police have is lack of evidence that this woman was attacked while jogging at Little Squalicum Beach, I am bothered by the police stating that the woman made up the story. This may be their belief, but without evidence that details of her report are verifiably false, their statement is an unverified belief.
I didn't want to take the stories about the police's newest announcement about this case as complete so I went looking for more details about this case.
Before the police declared the report to be false, the Bellingham Herald ran a statement released by the alleged victim which begins with:
I do not know why today is the day that I decided to reach out to the community that has been stirred by my life, my tragedy.
It just happened over a cup of tea that still hurts with every swallow with my swollen face, a constant reminder of my worst nightmare. I am the girl from the newspapers.
A nurse is starting an IV, is eyeing the marks on my wrists where the zip ties held me prisoner through the unthinkable. As a nurse, I know what she suspects.
“I am the girl in the newspapers,” I blankly state.
“Oh honey!!!” Her tone changed, eyes softening, and she ran her gloved fingers tenderly over the broken skin. I flinched from the stinging pain.
This statement continues, but it also contains details which can be confirmed or denied in a way that is more than "lack of evidence." If this statement and others about this alleged crime have been proven to be false then the police statements should have made that clear.
I'll admit that the last quoted sentence doesn't ring true because I can't imagine a nurse trying to comfort a patient by running fingers over broken skin. However, I also know that those who compulsively exaggerate and even lie can be raped. If a rapist realizes that someone has this tendency it almost guarantees they will be able to get away with raping that person.
This is why evidence and not just lack of evidence is so important in rape cases.
By failing to distinguish between lack of evidence and disproven testimony, the police statements to the media about this case are clear deterrents to those who have been raped and aren't sure there will be evidence that the police will believe. It could also create the fear that a rape victim will need to recant to avoid being put under psychiatric care.