In the #MeToo era, when claims of rape and sexual assault fly fast and furious, it’s important to remember that some of the claims are false. As we consider whether to believe claims of assault – whether they’re against a Supreme Court nominee or your next-door neighbor – some facts help put the claims in perspective.
In 2006, three members of the Duke Lacrosse team were falsely accused of rape. In 2016, members of a University of Virginia frat were falsely accused of rape.
How frequent are false accusations of rape? Quite high, when compared to other types of crimes. The reason can likely come down to the fact that there are no real negative consequences for a woman filing a false accusation.
Two studies about false accusations
While family law courts do not track domestic or sexual abuse accusations, the numbers are surprisingly high. And data from the general public back them up. A 2010 analysis of 10 years of data at a U.S. university found that a significant number of reported sexual assault were false. A 2006 study of statistics by the FBI found that nearly 10percent of forcible rape complaints were unfounded, significantly higher than the two percent average of unfounded claims among all other reported crimes.
Who files false reports?
One of the main subgroups of false accusers are women fighting for custody or pushing for the best possible financial award in divorce court. States that “penalize” the spouse found to be at fault for causing the divorce will often take accusations of domestic or sexual abuse into account. Even no-fault divorce states provide no penalty for falsely accusing the other party.
One potential subgroup is teens who make claims to cover up other trouble – using a claim of sexual assault after missing curfew, for example.
Some make false reports to gather revenge or sympathy, researchers at the National Institutes of Health report. Some are searching for material gain, emotional gain or they suffer from a disturbed mental state, researchers write. Some even reported they don’t know why they filed a false report.
One report found some reported assaults to cover up violations running the gamut between adultery and skipping school.
In some cases, the accuser has a history of lying, fraud or making previous false accusations.