In light of several things going on in popular culture these days, I’ve had many requests for information on false allegations and false reporting when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault.
So I put together a research & resource list so folks can investigate for themselves and understand the issue.
Bottom line? False reporting on sexual assault is about as common than false allegations of theft and every other crime. In other words: It does not happen often. But when it does, it’s so devastating and life altering for the accused, we jump to protect.
I hope this resource list can help us understand and think through false allegations with an informed lens.
I. Overview of False Reporting from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:
II. Dr. David Lisak’s 2010 Article on False Reporting:
III. False Reporting Fact Sheet from David Lisak:
IV. From my notes on hearing Dr. David Lisak speak April 2015:
False reports of rape = you can say it is false based on evidence
Why is there heat on this notion of false reporting? What is the reason people get so worked up over false reporting?
a. A rape accusation is a profoundly damaging and hurtful thing
b. We cannot pretend this accusation is not serious. Being falsely accused is catastrophic
c. Historically rape victims are discounted
d. Rape victims are routinely subjected to personal attacks
Problems with police classifications
The Police Classifications:
a. The word “unfounded” includes both false reports and “baseless” reports
b. “Baseless” is a report that doesn’t meet the formal elements of the crime.
c. “Unsubstantiated” means there is insufficient evidence to prove
d. “No-crimed” – is the British term for “Unfounded”
Most studies are uninterpretable for several reasons.
a. Asking investigators to provide estimates is not research
b. Reliance on un-scrutinizing classifications
c. Unverifiable sources are used
d. Data is misinterpreted
The Best Studies:
1. Kelly, Lovett, Regan (2005) British Study
2,643 cases reviewed in a 15 year period
Case files, medical reports, and interviews were the data used
8.2% were classified as false reports (actually classified by police, not accurate).
2.5% were classified by researchers (applying police standards) once audited—as false reports
2. 2006 Australia
Found 2.1% were false
3. 2009 Lisak.
Found 5.9% were false
From a 10 year period. Talked to investigators.
4. 2014, Los Angeles (Cassia, etc)
4.5% were found false
Which means only 2-8% are false reports.
False reports do not happen a lot.
V. Sexual Assault False Allegations from David Lisak 2007:
VI. Kelly, Lovett, Regan (2005) British Study
VII. False Reports, Moving Beyond the Issue:
L O N S W A Y , S G T . J O A N N E A R C H A M B A U L T ( R E T . ) , D R . D A V I D L I S A K
VIII. Compilation of Resources about False Allegations from End Violence Against Women (EVAW):
IX. Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, PDF on False Allegations:
X. Article from 2013 on DV and SA:
XI. Article from 2010 on rare false rape allegations:
XII. Quotes About False Allegations of Rape from David Lisak (See: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/false-allegations-of-rape)
A. “Finally, another large-scale study [of false rape allegations] was conducted in Australia, with the 850 rapes reported to the Victoria police between 2000 and 2003 (Heenan & Murray, 2006). Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the researchers examined 812 cases with sufficient information to make an appropriate determination, and found that only 2.1% of these were classified as false reports. All of these complainants were then charged or threatened with charges for filing a false police report.”
Lonsway, K. A., Archambault, J., & Lisak, D. (2009). False reports: Moving beyond the issue to successfully investigate and prosecute non-stranger sexual assault. The Voice, 3(1), 1-11.”
― David Lisak
B. “The largest and most rigorous study that is currently available in this area is the third one commissioned by the British Home Office (Kelly, Lovett, & Regan, 2005). The analysis was based on the 2,643 sexual assault cases (where the outcome was known) that were reported to British police over a 15-year period of time. Of these, 8% were classified by the police department as false reports. Yet the researchers noted that some of these classifications were based simply on the personal judgments of the police investigators, based on the victim’s mental illness, inconsistent statements, drinking or drug use. These classifications were thus made in violation of the explicit policies of their own police agencies. There searchers therefore supplemented the information contained in the police files by collecting many different types of additional data, including: reports from forensic examiners, questionnaires completed by police investigators, interviews with victims and victim service providers, and content analyses of the statements made by victims and witnesses. They then proceeded to evaluate each case using the official criteria for establishing a false allegation, which was that there must be either “a clear and credible admission by the complainant” or “strong evidential grounds” (Kelly, Lovett, & Regan,2005). On the basis of this analysis, the percentage of false reports dropped to 2.5%.”
Lonsway, Kimberly A., Joanne Archambault, and David Lisak. “False reports: Moving beyond the issue to successfully investigate and prosecute non-stranger sexual assault.” The Voice 3.1 (2009): 1-11.”
― David Lisak
The heated public discourse about the frequency of false rape allegations often makes no reference to actual research. When the discourse does make reference to research, it often founders on the stunning variability in research findings on the frequency of false rape reports. A recently published comprehensive review of studies and reports on false rape allegations listed 20 sources whose estimates ranged from 1.5% to 90% (Rumney, 2006). However, when the sources of these estimates are examined carefully it is clear that only a fraction of the reports represent credible studies and that these credible studies indicate far less variability in false reporting rates.”
Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. C., & Cote, A. M. (2010). False allegations of sexual assualt: an analysis of ten years of reported cases. Violence Against Women, 16(12), 1318-1334.”
― David Lisak
XIII. Males are more likely to be assaulted than be falsely accused:
“the fact that sexual assault against males is more common than false accusations of males committing sexual assault is “ironic” – Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations at the American Association of University Women.
XIV. Advocacy Paper Prepared for Women Against Rape September 23, 2013:
Lisa R. Avalos, Assistant Professor of Law University of Arkansas School of Law Alexandra Filippova, J.D. class of 2013 Cynthia Reed, J.D. class of 2014 Matthew Siegel, J.D. class of 2013 1 Georgetown University Law Center