No, False Accusations of Rape are Not Running Rampant and Destroying Western Society

Sample Original Comment: Feminists like to talk a big talk about “rape culture”, but the reality is that what the US and other countries of the West are seeing unfolding and growing in social acceptance is the opposite: the false rape culture.

Source: Some guy’s blog on the Internet I won’t bother linking to—his drivel does not deserve web hits.

Some Context As To Why On Earth Someone Might Actually Believe This: Before I pulverize this ridiculous comment into a delicious, frothy smoothie of truth and justice, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that, yes, false rape accusations do occur. Some high-profile cases in which the alleged victim later admitted to making a false accusation include the case of aspiring football player Brian Banks, who went to prison for 5 years and whose alleged victim received $2.6 million from their high school district, as well as Leanne Black, who went to jail after knowingly filing false accusations of rape on 5 (yes, FIVE) separate occasions. Therefore, it is fair to say a significant reason people believe in the myth of a “false rape culture” is that some men (and, to the astonishment of misogynists worldwide, some women too) are falsely accused of rape.

As for the prevalence of this belief? Well, that’s not the result of a few stories of false rape allegations alone. That’s the result of the Men’s Rights movement, which dates back to the 1960s. At that time, some men in Western societies began to feel threatened by the demands of feminists: equal pay, equal treatment under the law, and justice for survivors of rape and domestic violence. To this last demand, many individuals in the Men’s Rights movement came to see the cries of rape as an attempt by women to obtain power over men. As more Western societies began to take feminist issues seriously, the myth of a false rape culture emerged. With the advent of the Internet, the myth has taken root in various web communities, most notably the Men’s Rights Advocates subreddit on reddit.

Because no justice system is perfect, because juries have biases, and because district attorneys sometimes pressure innocent people into plea deals, it is certainly conceivable that some men wrongfully accused of rape could potentially receive a conviction and spend time in prison. On the Internet, it is not unusual to see an individual (who usually maintains anonymity) tell an eyebrow-raising story of being wrongfully accused of rape, sometimes even spending time in jail as a result.

The Rebuttal:

So yes, false allegations occur sometimes, and they can be a traumatic experience for the men and women who are falsely accused. And this can result in some compelling—even rage-inducing—stories of false accusations that may frighten the Internet’s prevailing demographic of 20-something males who are slowly discovering the wonderful-yet-slightly-terrifying world of an adult sex life.

However, a “false rape culture” is more than a few people making false accusations of rape, and the notion of a feminist-induced apocalypse (Femipocalypse, if you will) is rather baseless unless the lies do significant harm to most falsely accused. Unfortunately for the cause of the Men’s Rights movement, all these stories by themselves merely amount to anecdotal evidence, often from anonymous sources. Should I dare to suggest that some of these story-tellers might be lying about not being rapists, in the same way some men and women do lie about being raped? Or maybe even making the whole thing up?

Anyway, before anyone can argue that a “false rape culture” exists in Western countries, they have to first offer some shred of substantive evidence of the following:

  1.  alleged rape victims are intentionally lying about being raped at epidemic levels in Western societies, at rates significantly higher than actual rapes so questioning any rate is justified
  2.  these false rape allegations are taken seriously enough by either the justice system or society at large to cause grave consequences for the falsely accused
  3. that this epidemic is the result of a culture allowing for false rape accusations—more specifically, that the Feminist movement’s quest for justice for rape victims only encourages women to lie about being raped.

In these endeavors, those individuals crying “False Rape!” fail. Dramatically.

A number of researchers have actually looked at the data on reported rape cases to attempt to determine the prevalence of false accusations of rape. Regrettably, all of them have used different sampling techniques, sources for data, and standards for what constitutes a false accusation of rape, all depending on their level of bias.

Legal scholar Professor Philip Rumney conducted a survey of studies on the topic in 2006. He found studies that reported as many as 90% and as few as 1% of reported rape accusations were false accusations. He noted, however, that many of the studies with higher percentages used smaller sample sizes or had bizarrely low standards for classifying a rape claim as false. For example, in the study reporting a 90% rate, the researcher deemed one rape claim false because “it was totally impossible to have removed her extremely tight undergarments from her extremely large body against her will.” Ladies, take note: the best defense against rapists? Lots of chocolate ice cream and underwear that’s a size too small!

In all seriousness, though, noting Rumney’s survey is important, as it explores how pliant the data and statistics on false accusations of rape can be.

Thankfully, there has been one very reliable study that focused on false rape accusations in particular, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The study comes from the Crown Prosecution Services (CPS) of the United Kingdom, who decided to investigate the true nature of false accusations after a woman lied about lying about being raped by her husband. Say, where’s the outrage over false false accusations of rape?

Starting in 2010, CPS spent 17 months analyzing all known cases of false accusations of rape and domestic violence in England and Wales, in an attempt to collect tangible data on false accusations to best determine how to handle them. The prosecutors conducting the study specifically requested police forces to refer any cases of false allegations of rape directly to them. It’s important to realize that during this time, the police were specifically asked to track and identify false accusations of rape.

The result?

Over the 17 months, 5,651 defendants were brought to trial and prosecuted for rape—many of them for multiple offenses.

The number of false accusations of rape prosecuted?

38.

To be clear, that means there was about 1 false accusation of rape prosecuted for every 200 rape defendants.

Now, granted, for both rapes and false accusations of rape, it is very hard to collect enough evidence to justify bringing a case to trial—and even when there is evidence, sometimes prosecutors decide the case seems is not worth pursuing. However, the study did also keep track of the mere number of cases police identified involving false accusations of rape.

The number of false accusations identified?

132 total—or approximately 1 identified false accusation for every 43 rape defendants brought to trial.

Oh, and 8 of those lying about rape were men. Are they responsible for this false rape culture? If not, the number drops to 124.

Oh, and 36 of the false claims did not identify a specific assailant. How damaging is our false rape culture if no assailant is named?

Needless to say, even this 1:43 ratio is not fully representative of this false rape culture’s lack of severity.

I suspect some of you might be thinking, “Well, there are a lot of rapes as well, so maybe both false accusations and actual rapes are running rampant throughout society?”

Let me remind you that this was 132 total instances identified of false accusations of rape over 17 months for England and Wales, which have a combined population of approximately 55 million.

That means approximately 1 identified false accusation of rape per 7 million people per month.

Let’s put this another way: if you buy one Powerball Lottery ticket every month for your entire life, you are more likely to at some point win the runner-up prize than to ever have a false rape claim filed against you.

Some may argue the validity of these numbers, insisting many rape claims that don’t hold enough evidence to reach prosecution are false accusations of rape. However, there is little basis to believe a significant number of claims are false reports and go unidentified, and considering the UK police previously were noted for their inclination to classify rape claims as false reports, these numbers likely reflect reality.

What’s far more interesting than the numbers, however, is the nature in which these false accusations arose. The study notes that about half of the cases were initially reported to police by someone other than the victim—a statistic that rises when the victim is under 18. The researchers wrote that, “It was a feature of [third party reporting cases] that [the alleged victim] later reported that the whole thing had spiraled out of control and he or she had felt unable to stop the investigation.”

Because many of these false claims were reported by a third party, it’s likely many women who avoid bringing their claim to the police still end up entangled in the law. Although the study does not provide data on the relationship of the third party reporter to the false accuser, family members certainly come to mind, particularly for those under 18. A number of the case studies in the report support this assertion. I will come back to this point in a little bit, but keep it in mind. It’s important.

First, though, we need to take a step back now and reconsider a basic assumption: does lying about being raped and then not reporting it to the police generally provide a woman with many real, tangible benefits? They may get sympathy from some, and they may cause others to think less of an alleged assailant. However, many women and men tend to not believe alleged rape victims, including the woman described in the intro to this article on the just-world hypothesis. The just-world hypothesis (or “phenomenon”) is a psychologically tested and proven measure of how people tend to believe victims are to responsible for the crimes they suffer.  This can, in turn, cause there to be little effect on an alleged assailant’s social life. The Wikipedia page for the just-world hypothesis gives a surprisingly comprehensive rundown on various studies showing its existence, including its application to rape victims.

Maybe this hypothetical false accuser could cause a man to lose his job, but he or she would have to have some reason to go to that individual’s HR department instead of the police. For any divorce court to take a rape claim seriously, there must at least be a police report.

There very well may be a few scenarios in which a woman stands to benefit from telling such a lie—say, a teen pregnancy in a conservative, religious family, or a girl who cheats on her boyfriend but for some reason decides she absolutely cannot own up to it and thus creates an elaborate lie that would have to be sustained for the entire duration of the relationship. However, these lies seem unlikely to seep out into other social circles and do damage to the falsely accused’s reputation. Furthermore, the liar risks having to the lie to the police if anyone he or she tells chooses to report the alleged rape. Without evidence, without witnesses, and without police involvement, there remains very little for even the most sociopathic, pathological, narcissistic, Sharon-Stone-in-Basic-Instinct-esque woman to gain from lying about rape but not going to the police, let alone do damage to the falsely accused.

And even when an actual rape victim does go to the police or other authorities, the level of scrutiny and skepticism can be unbearable. Anonymous men on the internet may enjoy offering anecdotal evidence of false rape accusations, but they hardly have that market cornered: thousands of men and women who are raped face obstacles to justice and tell their stories on the Internet, including this woman who claims to have been pressured into confessing to filing a false accusation by the police. Maybe that 1 in 7 million per month statistic is too high after all…

But there is a much, much, much more significant point that seems lost on many Men’s Rights types in this whole false accusation debate. As the anecdotes in the CPS study shows, and as many internet anecdotes claim, a sizable number of real-life false accusations seem to result from women feeling pressured to lie to protect their innocence and their sexual image: the woman cheated on their boyfriend, and they don’t want to upset their boyfriend; the woman got pregnant and didn’t want to get in trouble with their conservative parents; the woman slept with someone they later regretted and don’t want to be thought of as promiscuous (I’m personally skeptical about the plausibility of this last potential scenario, but I’ll throw it in there).

All these scenarios stem from women being stuck in a very sex-negative society.

All these scenarios result from women trying to cover up some kind of guilt they feel over having sex.

Early on, I noted how the Men’s Rights narrative (and our sample comment) insists that feminism somehow encourages women to use rape accusations to obtain power over men. However, the real-life false accusation scenarios suggest the opposite: women use false rape accusations to protect themselves from the sex-negative, judgmental nature of the patriarchy. If we continue to dismantle that patriarchy, stop judging women for having sex, stop treating abortion as an evil sin, and stop shaming women who engage in an active sex life, then women will have fewer reasons use “rape” as means to cover up teen pregnancies, sex before marriage, cheating on boyfriends, and promiscuity.

Thus, in a bizarre twist of fate, the answer to battling false rape accusations is NOT perpetual skepticism toward all rape victims. The answer is Feminism.

The Bottom Line: The best available data suggests there are very few instances of false accusations of rape, and they pale in comparison to the total instances of rape. When false accusations of rape do occur, it often has little ability to do damage to the alleged assailant. Most significantly, however, the most common reasons for lying about rape result from negative beliefs about female sexuality. The men crying “false rape!” on the Internet would therefore likely accomplish a lot more in fighting false rape accusations if they became advocates for women’s rights.

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