As experts and specialists in sexual assault, we are often asked – is it true that sex crimes and sexual assault is under reported?
Well, the answer is interesting. While there are multiple studies that sex crimes are, in fact, the most under reported crime, that is only half the story. Because at the same time they are as many (or even more) studies that show that sexual assault is also the most over reported crime, and by a large margin.
Let’s start with the Department of Justice. A pretty credible source, right? The DOJ reports (in two separate studies done by the FBI), the following:
These statistics, found on the FBI website, show that false allegations of forced sexual assault at around 8%, or FOUR TIMES higher than other violent crimes (which come in at 2%). It also equates to almost 1 in 10 sexual assault allegations as being false. From a LAW ENFORCEMENT study. That is a staggering statistic.
However, the story does not end there. Studies done by academics instead of law enforcement, put the figure of false reports as high as 40 to 50%.
40%. See, Kanin, Eugene J., “False Rape Allegations”, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 1, Feb 1994, p. 81 (40%) (https://archive.org/stream/FalseRapeAllegations/false-rape-allegations-archive_djvu.txt)
6% are provable false, while another 44% do not have enough evidence to proceed. See, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/416536/how-common-are-false-rape-charges-really-jason-richwine.
Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck, prominent criminal attorneys and co-founders of the Innocence Project, in their book actual innocence: “Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have “matched” or included the primary suspect.
10.9% (“false/malicious” claims) and 25% (recorded by police as “no-crime”). See, Harris, J., & Grace, S. (1999). A question of evidence? Investigating and prosecuting rape in the 1990s (Home Office Research Study, No. 196). London, England: Home Office. (https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218144322/http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hors196.pdf)
41% (“false” claims) 38% (viewed by police as “possibly true/possibly false”). See, Jordan, J. (2004). Beyond belief? Police, rape and women’s credibility. Criminal Justice, 4, 29-59.
Yet even more studies and data can be found:
True and false allegations in sexual abuse in child custody disputes. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 25, 449–456. (https://www.jaacap.org/article/S0002-7138(10)60001-5/pdf)
Kanin, E. J. (1994). False rape allegations. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 23, 81–92. (https://www.aals.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Bowen-Kanin-False-Rape-Empirical.pdf).
Lamb, M. E., Sternberg, K. J., Esplin, P. W., Hershkowitz, I., & Orbach, Y. (1997). Assessing the credibility of children’s allegations of sexual abuse: A survey of recent research. Learning and Individual Differences, 9, 175–194. (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/53cd/306573a1567145e2680ccd6fb2eea082b3a2.pdf).
Levitt, A., & The Crown Prosecution Service Equality and Diversity Unit. (2013). Charging perverting the course of justice and wasting police time in cases involving allegedly false rape and domestic violence allegations. (http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/research/perverting_course_of_justice_march_2013.pdf).
McNamara, J. J., McDonald, S., & Lawrence, J. M. (2012). Characteristics of false allegation adult crimes. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 57, 643–646. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.02019.x).
Sheridan, L. P., &Blaauw, E. (2004). Characteristics of false stalking reports. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 31, 55–72 (https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/860a/cab9e1a291151c895721647d868a34ce0096.pdf).
Spohn, C., White, C., &Tellis, K. (2014). Unbounding sexual assault: Examining the decision to unfound and identifying false reports. Law and Society Review, 48, 161–192. (https://www.rienner.com/uploads/526055ba401ff.pdf).
Obviously one false allegation of sexual assault is too many. Just ask the 3 Duke LAX players what kind of impact false allegations had on their schooling, academics, athletic career, and life. However, there is overwhelming evidence to support the idea that false allegations of sexual assault happen, and they happen far more often than anyone would ever want to believe – particularly police and prosecutors.
Don’t become a statistic. If you are charged or threatened with a sexual assault allegation, call the sex crimes specialists at Satawa Law today. It will be the best call you ever make.