Wednesday, May 12, 2010

False Claims

When it comes to discussions of criminal false claims too many people only think about women and girls who lie about having been raped. Other criminal false claims are usually shrugged off as so rare that those who make other types of legal claims should be assumed to be truthful.

This difference in attitude is used to justify treating reports of rape by girls and women as inherently suspicious while treating other legal claims as inherently trustworthy.

This perception difference ignores the fact that if someone is willing to make a false claim in one area they are likely to make a false claim in other areas. Further, the motives given for false rape claims apply to many other types of false claims as well. Revenge, greed and cruelty don't limit themselves to one gender or one type of crime.

I was reminded of these contrasting attitudes when I read an article about staged automobile accidents where the motivation is insurance fraud.
Though the monetary loss is concerning, the real danger of staged accidents comes in the collisions themselves. In 2007 and 2008, years that saw a dramatic rise in staged accidents, there were 71,452 fatalities as a result of automobile collisions. The fact that offenders are increasingly forgoing the danger of seriously injuring or killing an innocent motorist for the purpose of scamming insurance companies is a serious concern.
Despite the seriousness of this crime, few people would support treating everyone who reports an auto accident the way many people want rape victims treated. Those who demand all those who report rape should submit to polygraph exams would be unlikely to support the same demand for everyone who files an insurance claim.

If we understand that evidence and not stereotypes should be used to evaluate claims which if false would be criminal then we must understand this when the claim is rape.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:52 AM   7 comments links to this post


At May 14, 2010 1:17 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

Good point

At May 14, 2010 12:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that false claims can happen in many areas. One aspect, though, is motivation and response.
I think everyone would agree that someone who is caught arranging an accident for insurance fraud deserves to be charged with a crime and go through the process of discovery.
With false rape claims, the accuser is often not charged, but instead viewed as someone who must be very hurt or disturbed to make such a claim and treated sympathetically.
And, while that may be true, we do not see this treatment with other types of false reporting.

I think you also make the excellent point that someone who makes a false claim in one area is likely to behave similarly in others. We do often see this pattern with false rape allegations.

At May 14, 2010 5:02 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, when you talk about people who report rape who have been labeled by police as having made a false claim and who are not charged with filing a fraudulent police report you are making the false assumption that the police and prosecutors are always correct in their assessment.

They are not.

Police officers and prosecutors have made wrongful accusations against real rape victims for a variety of reasons and have charged rape victims with crimes they didn't commit. Cases where the original report was assumed to be false have later been proven true when those victims turned out to be victims of serial rapists.

Comparisons of how those who file false police reports are treated are often not based on credible research but are instead based on guesswork, bias and variations in media coverage about false reports.

At May 14, 2010 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt. I wasn't intending to include police mistakes. I was more referring to the cases where the person themselves recanted and clearly stated that they had made the accusation up. We've actually had several recently in the news.
And, yes, their treatment is all over the place. Some are criminally charged, some are treated as having a mental disturbance, some are just let go.
There is certainly a lot of gray area there, agreed.

I suppose more research is needed.

At May 14, 2010 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the person you are talking about. I'm an educated woman and at the time married for 18 years with two children.I had lived my entire life in this community.

What is disturbing to me mostly is how the legal system rapes a woman all over again. I have had over 20 hours of depos over 8 years and the truth never changes. I have had to answer questions about my sex life with my husband in great detail. My entire life was open for everyone to see and comment on.

These were serial offenders and I cannot understand how the justice system fails women in these crimes. Then when you pursue every avenue available within the justice system, such as civil suits, everyone assumes you just are out for money.

There is no amount of money that is equal to your credibity and your name. No amount of money is worth what my family and I have gone through to prevent this from happing to another woman.

I went through this for 8 years because I have a daughter who was 12 when this happened and I wanted her to know men like this cannot get away with taking from you without asking and that she should be proud to stand up for what is right.

I cannot imagine that anyone would ever lie about being raped. What happens after you report it is almost as horrific as event itself.

At May 14, 2010 9:41 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous, when you equate recanting with proof of a false claim you are making a mistake.

Non-confessions are too often described as recanting. Also just as those accused of violence can be coerced into false confessions so too can rape victims. From the news you have no way of knowing the reality behind the investigators beliefs.

The potential mismatch between what investigators believe and the truth is why we have trials and why we have a system of innocent until proven guilty. This is just as true for those accused of filing fraudulent rape reports as it is for those accused of committing rape.

At May 14, 2010 9:55 PM, Blogger Marcella Chester said...

Anonymous (8:38 pm): My heart goes out to you for facing the assumptions that too many sex crime victims face for no reason other than the type of crime committed against them.

Unfortunately, a small percentage of those who report rape (men as well as women) do file fraudulent rape reports, but the credible research shows that the percentages are no higher for sex crimes than they are for non-sex crimes. Unfortunately for sex crimes the so-called solution to this problem is too often to treat all rape victims as guilty until proven innocent rather than evaluating each case based on the actual evidence just as investigators would do if the assault were non-sexual.


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