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The statistics on false accusations of rape vary widely, from 2% (a figure that has frequently been cited) to Eugene Kanin's (1994) figure of 41%, which derived from a case study of a police agency in a metropolitan city in the Midwest. John Bancroft states that a search of the literature on false rape reports reveals that Kanin's figure of 41% false rape reports is regarded as unusually high. FBI statistics for the annual rate of false reporting of forcible assault across the country have been a consistent 8%. A study from the UK found that of the approximately 14,500 cases of rape reported in 2005/2006 9% were classified as false allegations.
Michelle J. Anderson of the Villanova University School of Law states: "As a scientific matter, the frequency of false rape complaints to police or other legal authorities remains unknown." The FBI's 1996 Uniform Crime Report states that 8% of reports of forcible rape were determined to be unfounded upon investigation, but that percentage does not include cases where an accuser fails or refuses to cooperate in an investigation or drops the charges. A British study using a similar methodology that does not include the accusers who drop out of the justice process found a false reporting rate of 8% as well. DiCanio (1993) states that while researchers and prosecutors do not agree on the exact percentage of false allegations, they generally agree on a range of 2 to 8%.
In 1994, Dr. Eugene J. Kanin of Purdue University investigated the incidences of false rape allegations made to the police in one small urban community between 1978 and 1987. He states that unlike those in many larger jurisdictions, this police department had the resources to "seriously record and pursue to closure all rape complaints, regardless of their merits." He further states each investigation "always involves a serious offer to polygraph the complainants and the suspects." and "the complainant must admit that no rape had occurred. She is the sole agent who can say that the rape charge is false." The falseness of the allegations was not decided by the police, Dr. Kanin, nor upon physical or testimonial evidence. The number of false rape allegations in the studied period was 45; this was 41% of the 109 total complaints filed in this period.
Criticism of Dr. Kanin's report include Dr. David Lisak, an associate professor of psychology and director of the Men’s Sexual Trauma Research Project at the University of Massachusetts Boston. In the September/October 2007 issue of the Sexual Assault Report he states “Kanin’s 1994 article on false allegations is a provocative opinion piece, but it is not a scientific study of the issue of false reporting of rape. It certainly should never be used to assert a scientific foundation for the frequency of false allegations.” He further states:
"Kanin describes no effort to systemize his own ‘evaluation’ of the police reports—for example, by listing details or facts that he used to evaluate the criteria used by the police to draw their conclusions. Nor does Kanin describe any effort to compare his evaluation of those reports to that of a second, independent research— providing a ‘reliability’ analysis. This violates a cardinal rule of science, a rule designed to ensure that observations are not simply the reflection of the bias of the observer [...] [Dr. Kanin] simply reiterates the opinions of the police officers who concluded that the cases in question were ‘false allegations.’"
Lisak cites page 13 of Investigating Sexual Assaults from the International Association of Chiefs of Police which says polygraph tests for sexual assault victims are contraindicated in the investigation process and that their use is “based on the misperception that a significant percentage of sexual assault reports are false,”. Lisak argues that “It is noteworthy that the police department from which Kanin derived his data used or threatened to use the polygraph in every case… The fact that it was the standard procedure of this department provides a window on the biases of the officers who conducted the rape investigations, biases that were then echoed in Kanin’s unchallenged reporting of their findings.”
A 2006 paper by N.S. Rumney in the Cambridge Law Journal provided an exhaustive account of studies of false reporting in the USA, New Zealand and the UK. A tabulated list of studies on false reporting published between 1968 and 2005 placed the percentage of false reports between a minimum on 1.5% (Theilade and Thomsen, 1986) and a maximum of 90% (Stewart, 1981).
Rumney notes that early researchers tended to accept uncritically Freudian theories which purported to explain the prevalence of false allegations, while in more recent literature there has been "a lack of critical analysis of those who claim a low false reporting rate and the uncritical adoption of unreliable research findings" (p. 157). Rumney concludes that "as a consequence of such deficiencies within legal scholarship, factual claims have been repeatedly made that have only limited empirical support. This suggests widespread analytical failure on the part of legal scholarship and requires an acknowledgment of the weakness of assumptions that have been constructed on unreliable research evidence."
According to a 2005 U.S. Defense Department Inspector General report, approximately 73% of women and 72% of men at the military service academies believe that false accusations of sexual assault are a problem.
Taylor (1987) wrote that "suspicion and disbelief of women who charge men with rape have for centuries had a stranglehold on [...] laws nominally designed to protect women against rape. As a result, many women did not report or prosecute rapes because the process was so often humiliating."
A 2008 study about interpersonal relationship problems concluded in extreme cases, women may use the false accusation of rape to get revenge at their ex-spouse, especially in cases in which one person receives more benefits in a divorce. Experts[who?] agree that these findings are likely, however are uncommon, as practical considerations are taken into account, such as the accuser being convicted of perjury.
- Cybulska B (July 2007). "Sexual assault: key issues". J R Soc Med 100 (7): 321–4. doi:10.1258/jrsm.100.7.321. PMID 17606752.
- The Legacy of the Prompt Complaint Requirement, Corroboration Requirement, and Cautionary Instructions on Campus Sexual Assault Forthcoming
- Crime Index Offenses Reported 1996
- A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases Home Office Research - February 2005
- DiCanio, M. (1993). The encyclopedia of violence : origins, attitudes, consequences. New York : Facts on File
- Kanin, Eugene J., "False Rape Allegations", Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 1, Feb 1994, p. 81. (MS Word document at the Internet Archive)
- Rumney, N.S., "False Allegations of Rape", Cambridge Law Journal, 65, March, 2006, pp.128-158
- "How to Recognize False Allegations of Rape". The Center for Military Readiness. September 4, 2006. http://www.cmrlink.org/social.asp?DocID=276. Retrieved 2008-02-15.
- Taylor, J. Rape and women's credibility: Problems of recantations and false accusations echoed in the case of Cathleen Crowell Webb and Gary Dotson. Harvard Women's Law Journal (now Harvard Journal of Law & Gender), 1987, volume 10, page 59.
- Twisted motive behind rape story, New York Post, Sept. 18, 2009