British Study Shows False Rape Claims are Complicated Matters

2892270262_d3a496b80eThe United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recently released a report highlighting the complexity—and scarcity—of false rape allegations. The report was issued in response to a 2010 court appeal in which a woman pleaded guilty to falsely retracting true allegations of rape that she had made against her husband, and was then sentenced to eight months imprisonment for “perverting the course of justice.”

CPS considered whether the woman should be prosecuted for false allegations or protected as a victim of rape. The case inspired a closer look at circumstances surrounding alleged false claims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, and ultimately proved that false allegations are not as common or straightforward as sometimes thought. Most importantly, this report confirms what feminists have known for years: Victim-blaming is totally uncalled for.

Women are frequently accused of fabricating sexual assault to gain sympathy. According to CPS, such accusations hold almost no weight. Throughout a 17-month period in England and Wales, CPS found only a small number of false allegations: 35 out of 5,651 prosecutions for rape, 6 out of 111,891 for domestic violence and 3 for both rape and domestic violence.

Furthermore, these few false allegations were often complicated by other factors, such as victims having mental health difficulties or someone other than the victim making the false allegation. Perhaps more concerning was some cases of false claims revealed abusive situations where victims were “put under pressure to admit to having made a false allegation.” CPS shows us that false allegations are likely red flags for mistreatment, and the victim probably isn’t lying about abuse.

In a world where rape survivors are sometimes branded #Whore and accused of ruining their rapists’ “promising futures,” it’s hard to believe that women would want to lie about sexual assault.

Yet victim-blaming is rampant. A case of youth rape in Canada from last year recently resurfaced in the news: Rehtaeh Parsons, 15, was gang raped by four of her fellow students, who spread photo evidence of the rape around their community; later, a distraught Parsons committed suicide. As with Jane Doe from the Steubenville rape case, peers had quickly labeled Parsons a “slut,” and a protest even broke out in support of her rapists. More cases of rape and assault are likely to come into the media’s focus, and it isn’t a stretch to assume that they, too, will be rife with victim-blaming.

When people exaggerate the likelihood of false rape allegations, they value the attacker over the attacked. When people dismiss cases that call for compassion and protection, they promote apathy towards and resentment of rape survivors. These tendencies only ostracize survivors and discourage them from speaking up—and, according to CPS, disbelieving survivors is not only harmful but statistically unfounded.

Image courtesy of Flickr user psd under Creative Commons 2.0


  1. I actually tweeted/blogged about this back in March. I’ve always wondered why men are so overwhelming afraid of being falsely accused of rape to the point of dismissing most if not all women who say they’ve been raped. When looking at the statistics, men are actually more likely to be victims of rape. If men care so much about men’s issues, shouldn’t they be helping male rape survivors?

  2. “and scarcity—of false rape allegations.”

    That’s not what the report says. It highlights the amount of successful prosecutions for making a false accusation, nothing more and nothing less. It doesn’t tell us how many false accusations were made, only how many got to court and were prosecuted.

    Men in the UK have good reason to be worried about false accusation as it does in fact happen more often than any sane person would be comfortable acknowledging (certainly far more often than 35 times a year in a kingdom of more than 56.1 million people!) and the charge is particularly ‘he said she said’: a situation which should be terrifying to anyone of any gender. Just the accusation is often enough to destroy lives and end careers, sadly.

    With that said, the ‘blame the victim’ mentality we have seen lately with the cases in Canada and the US is disgusting.

  3. Bill D. says:

    Men are overwhelmingly afraid of false rape accusations for the same reason women are overwhelmingly afraid of violence despite men being far more likely victims of violence.

    The answer is: People are irrational and don’t understand statistics.

    Next question?

    • james-schumptington says:

      false rape allegations are real and commonplace. now that is not to say that women are running rampant with the rape card. i personally know 3 men that were falsely accused. one when i was in school a girls parents found her diary accounts of sex with a man. to spare herself her fathers wrath she threw the poor young man under the bus. he was one of my peers. he has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and faces lost employment opportunities, he cant give kids candy on halloween, and possible beatings from men who find out and believe him to be a rapist.

      one other account i would like to give is of my friend, a female. she was invited to a couples house by the wife to have sex with them. she consented. she went to their house, drank a little, then was invited to the bedroom by them both. she consented and went. she laid down with them. the wife then decided she didnt want to have sex. the man still did. she got naked, in the bed, laid down and the man had sex with her. the next day she was crying claiming that she was raped. she didnt go after charges on the man thank god. she is my friend and i care about her. but fact is that this wasnt a rape case. she may have believed it herself, but her actions say otherwise.

      also some food for thought. if i get drunk, get in my car, drive, run over a man and kill him i am guilty of murder. the choice to drink, the choice to drive, even though i was in no condition to make that choice, are mine alone. being drunk is no excuse for the consequences of poor judgement. in fact, any action you take while under the influence of alcohol or drugs taken of your own free will carry the same wight as they would if they had been committed sober. EXCEPT? when a woman consents to sex under the influence. think about that for a second.

  4. Men, including legislators, falsely identify with the accused. Aside from due process, they themselves are so afraid of being falsely accused that they erroneously identify with the perpetrator. Sometimes this is illustrated by police doing nothing, as in the events leading up to the salon massacre in Brookfield, WI. last summer, or communicate great displeasure and doubt to the individual victimized, and often their professional advocates. Until this inner-cycle is addressed and broken there will be more incidents like those of past years and this one.

  5. Truth and legal charges/convictions are not the same thing. When you have young men laughing and joking on a video posted on the Internet about rape and murder, that is evidence of a rape culture. Most criminals don’t take videos of themselves committing crimes or bragging about it. The fact that rapists in numerous areas have no fear of posting their repulsive conduct tells me we have a huge problem. And it is a problem with sexual violence, not false reports.

    • If more men knew what a woman has to go through in order to make a charge of rape (& that police & prosecutors will decide whether they think SHE is credible, whether they want to bother with a case given who the ACCUSED is, what the CIRCIMSTANCE was–alcohol-related often means “forget it” etc)…men might realize how RARE false accusations are in REALITY. Fact is, far more women who are ACTUALY RAPED do NOT REPORT IT–because they do not want to be put thru all the crap that we;’ve seen in recent cases (Steubenvile, etc). Usually it’s the WOMAN’s reputation that gets ruined–NOT the man’s. If you KNOW your attacker—& somewhere between 60% and 80% of the time, you DO: then, it’s all on the woman to be “the right victim”. I think A.C. is correct: most men identify with the perpetrator…and too many men have a narrow defintion of what “real” rape is: the pepetrator is a STRANGER, he probably had a KNIFE OR A GUN–or at the very least BEAT the woman senseless. But, my experience was that even being a vicitm mopf a serial rapist who fit this profile did not mean that the police bothered with trying to get the guy—even tho a few weeks after the attack I saw him in my neighborhood 9& followed him to an address just 2 blocks from my apt). Being a poor, 20 year old student who had been coming home late at night, I guess they thought I deserved it….& the rapist said I was #19 of his victims. Wonder how many more women he attaacked and if he was ever caught? When I was sexualy assaulted by a man I thought was my friend 20 years later, there was no way I was gonig to go to police. I had no visible bruises & the attack was far less (obviously) “brutal” than the one I’d experienced 20 years earlier…but, it changed me far more. Now,I wonder how you ever know who is trustworthy.

      • Im so sorry to hear that Lydia. Nobody should ever go through what you went through, it’s hard to imagine. And I’m sorry you found it hard to speak up. Rest assured that if found in a room of most decent men, said man would have the problem of trying to pick up his teeth from the floor with broken fingers.
        But I’m pretty sure society is generally not on the side of rapists. There’s a reason that ‘NONCEs’ have to be segregated off in prison from their other prisoners.

        But at the end of the day, we must respect the rule of law. The law says that if someone is found not guilty, then they are not guilty until proven otherwise. We can’t assume that they might still be guilty unless evidence saying so comes forward. It’s not a perfect system and it has flaws, but we can only do our best in society.
        I’m not trying to identify with perpetrators here, my concern rather is for myself. I would rather fling myself off a bridge than rape anyone (I think, like any decent man would, that certain things are morally beneath me), but if I were accused and even found innocent (I would be innocent, like I said, I consider many things morally beneath me), life would be over and society would still consider me guilty and treat me as such. I don’t ever want that to happen to me. Certainly that fear has played on the back of my mind sometimes (like you, I have trust issues, though for less severe but still unpleasant reasons).

        I’m not trying to be insensitive to you Lydia, so please don’t read it like that. I simply want to put the point across that I am a moral and law abiding citizen and I don’t want to be considered guilty as charged if in the chance someone decided to make something like that up.

        After all, aren’t false accusations are damaging to rape victims as well? Considering how it can potentially make people wonder “is she telling the truth?” even if she is?

    • Oh and Kris? The idea of young lads finding amusement from a hideous real life crime is something I have never encountered with any young lads in my lifetime. Not in my social circle, not in my acquaintances, not in my family, nobody. I’m sure it does happen, but the only time I have ever encountered it is in TV crime dramas on the BBC. Nowhere else. And they tend to make rapists unsympathetic characters (and rightly so). Also, refer to my earlier comments, and I’m pretty sure that’s strong evidence that we most certainly do not live in a rape culture.

      Now the Islamic world on the other hand…

  6. I’m not sure we’re reading the same report.

    Nowhere in the report does it state an actual figure for the number of false rape accusations. Instead the report states the number of successful prosecutions for false allegations.

    This number does not include cases where a false accusation was suspected, or where the accusers were not considered for prosecution, despite a belief that the accusation was false. In general, for most crimes it is common policy not to prosecute for a false allegation, since this is deemed a waste of resources.

  7. The figs quoted are far too low – 10-12% rape allegations are false (FOI request 2012 43 constabularies Eng & Wales).

  8. Are false accusations made for financial gain. The instance I am thinking about is where a woman wants a divorce and financial gain it might not bring, so falsely accuses her husband of rape which if proven could lead to him getting a life sentence and losing all his assets to her.

    • Justin Fisher says:

      Do you have any data to back up the claim that false accusations are made for financial gain? How would that work? It looks to me that men are claiming that false accusations have a terrible effect on the male population, but I have seen no evidence that this is actually happening.

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