Thursday, April 02, 2009

Report on False Reporting Of Non-Stranger Rapes

A recent article entitled False Reports: Moving Beyond the Issue to Successfully Investigate and Prosecute Non-Stranger Sexual Assault (pdf) published by The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women is a must read for all those make claims about the rate of false reports or who are bombarded by those claims.

Here's the opening:

The issue of false reporting may be one of the most important barriers to successfully investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, especially with cases involving non-strangers. In this article, we will begin by reviewing the research on the percentage of false reports and then go on to discuss some of the complex issues underlying societal beliefs and attitudes in this area.

How Many Sexual Assault Reports are False?

One of the most common questions we address in training presentations with professionals -- as well as personal conversations with lay people -- is how many sexual assault reports are false. In the research literature, estimates for the percentage of sexual assault reports that are false have varied widely, virtually across the entire possible spectrum. For example, a very comprehensive review article documented estimates from 1.5% to 90% (Rumney, 2006). However, very few of these estimates are based on research that could be considered credible. Most are reported without the kind of information that would be needed to evaluate their reliability and validity. A few are little more than published opinions, based either on personal experience or a non-systematic review (e.g. of police files, interviews with police investigators, or other information with unknown reliability and validity).

The first estimate which is analyzed in this article is Eugene Kanin's of 41% which I have previously highlighted as a measurement of both investigator bias and the ability of biased investigators to use polygraphs to coerce those who report rape into recanting. This article points out that Kanin made no effort to independently review those cases and his research can only be considered "a provocative opinion piece" not a truly scientific study of false reports.

The "methodologically rigorous research" arrives at estimates between 2% and 8% which doesn't match the so-called objective truth that rape deniers put forth. Even in these more rigorous studies, the labeling of a report as a false report was often a matter of more rigorous belief instead of actual proof. When the criteria for calling a report a false allegation came from either a clear and credible admission by the complainant or strong evidential grounds the percentage of false reports dropped significantly, in one example from 8% to 2.5%.

The so-called scientific proof that this article analyzes results in clear and often unapologetic bias against those -- especially girls and women -- who report having been raped. There is a history of using any excuse to label a report as false or non-credible. The report calls these "red flags" and highlights that they are not indicators of false reports but are instead indicators of strong bias so that the evidence in the case becomes immaterial to the biased observer because to that observer, the reported rape cannot be a "real rape."

The report discusses why real victims of sexual violence will give inaccurate information which is often used incorrectly to label a true report of rape as false. One of the causes of inaccurate information is the victim's distrust of the police on a general level. Most of the time this distrust is warranted yet people may view those who distrust the police as acting irrationally.

The report highlights that asking or requiring rape victims to repeatedly describe what happened can inject contradictions. The report also discourages investigators and prosecutors from shifting cases from one staff member to another.

Not surprisingly some of the training materials available to investigators related to false reports are unreliable at best and use stereotypes as a substitute for evidence at worst. For those who use stereotypes to label someone as a false reporter it is important to note that a cold-blooded liar isn't likely to create a scenario where genuine reports are most frequently dismissed as unprovable. False reporters are most likely going to describe a crime which matches the stereotypes of what make a rape a "real rape."

Investigators or others who are assigned to assess rape cases who are suspicious of the report need to investigate the case to see what the evidence indicates or proves. The practice of challenging alleged victims with an investigator's suspicions prior to a full investigation taints the investigation and harms every victim who is wrongly suspected of filing a fraudulent report. They say it destroys trust, I say it is malpractice.

I recommend reading the entire report.

The report links to a position paper on false reports from the state of Oregon (pdf) which I also recommend.



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posted by Marcella Chester @ 10:27 AM   1 comments links to this post


At April 02, 2009 12:44 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Thank you Marcella for publicising this latest piece of rigorous, methodical research. The authors very succinctly analyse the various ways in which rape myths and rape survivor 'stereotypes' operate to discredit women and girls who very courageously report a man/men has/have raped them.

I have forwarded details of this report on to interested groups/networks.


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