Rebel Girls: Our “False Rape” Hysteria is Bullsh*t

Header by Rory Midhani

Header by Rory Midhani

As soon as the Rolling Stone piece on a University of Virginia gang rape began to unravel, I knew what was coming. The air smelled vaguely of freshly-purchased fedoras. The Internet felt defensive. And so it began. Suddenly, we were all stuck in a conversation on the falsely accused instead of the eternally silenced, a conversation about perpetrators and their struggles instead of rape victims and their trauma, a conversation about whether or not rape is something that even happens instead of a conversation about how to finally make it stop.

I am derailing that conversation, and I come bearing every ounce of truth I could muster about “false rape accusations” and the pitiful rape culture the myth of them exemplifies.


So, what’s a “false rape accusation,” anyway?

Honestly, the definition of a “false rape” will vary depending on who is talking about it. Anti-feminist folks often use the term, and the statistics available around it, to discuss scenarios in which a typically female person lies or otherwise fabricates a sexual assault or rape in order to target someone unfairly or seek attention, although – SURPRISE! – that’s not specifically what the term means in the eyes of the law, and that’s not what a “false rape” is when you see numbers about them on the books.

Let’s start with the basics: a “false” rape and an “unfounded” rape, in the language of the law, are the same thing. And for a whole lot of reasons, the data on how prevalent unfounded rapes are is skewed and altogether unreliable.

A lot of our crime statistics come from FBI reports, which would typically be great places to look for information about crime. But when it comes to sexual violence, that isn’t so. The FBI definition of rape, which was updated in 2012 after extensive advocacy by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, excluded pretty much everyone who had been raped from fitting into their statistical boxes for over four decades:

Carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.

The new FBI definition of rape is more inclusive in terms of sex and experience:

The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.

Since these changes came about in 2012, one might expect to see more accurate information flowing in to the government about rape in 2014. However, even two years in, the updated language has yet to be reflected in full by the FBI’s collected data. That means the FBI has – and still does – classify rapes that lacked a perfect victim or forcible stranger rape narrative as unfounded. And that’s a huge problem, as The Forensic Examiner has previously pointed out:

This statistic is almost meaningless, as many of the jurisdictions from which the FBI collects data on crime use different definitions of, or criteria for, “unfounded.” That is, a report of rape might be classified as unfounded (rather than as forcible rape) if the alleged victim did not try to fight off the suspect, if the alleged perpetrator did not use physical force or a weapon of some sort, if the alleged victim did not sustain any physical injuries, or if the alleged victim and the accused had a prior sexual relationship. Similarly, a report might be deemed unfounded if there is no physical evidence or too many inconsistencies between the accuser’s statement and what evidence does exist. As such, although some unfounded cases of rape may be false or fabricated, not all unfounded cases are false.

But it isn’t just the FBI’s definition of rape that stops us from getting comprehensive and accurate data about sexually violent crimes. Often, the data gets skewed in the collection process by the folks on the ground. And often, those people are cops.

The folks submitting data to federal agencies are localized law enforcement agencies, and what turns an alleged rape into an unfounded rape at your local police station could be one of many factors, including recanted stories by victims, suspicion or disbelief by police officers toward a victim, a lack of what a police station considers substantial proof, or just plain-old sexism and/or allegiance to a rapist by a police department or the officials within it.

That’s right! Police can call your rape “a lie” even if you were raped, because your rapist threatening to kill you unless you recant, a police officer pressuring you to take it all back and stop the investigation, or you being raped by someone who has buddies at the police department makes you a liar, liar, pants on fire.

One survivor, who shared their story on Free Thought Blogs, is proof alone that a false rape statistic isn’t always false at all:

I still believed in the system. I still didn’t want the man who raped me on the streets. I did everything they requested, answered every invasive question (they were really focused on my mental health history!), even got on the ground and acted out the rape for them, with the head detective on top of me acting out the part of the rapist. Not only was I absolutely hysterical by the time we were done, I’m positive that aggravated my PTSD for a long time after.

And after all that, I was called in for an “interview” to discuss “a new lead in your case.”

…And over and over they accused me of lying. Alone in this tiny room with two large, angry men, I was doing everything I could to keep from having a panic attack. I couldn’t respond to what they were saying; again, I think I was in shock. And they threatened me with jail time, with a felony on my record, destroying my family, public humiliation (he threatened to call the papers – something he did anyway, because, quote, “the community needs to know there was no threat to public safety”.) They said I would be charged with a false report, with terrorizing the public (there was a public awareness campaign initially after my attack, though I didn’t have anything to do with it. After the rape, I did everything I could to maintain anonymity, and only told two people – beyond my family and the cops – that I was attacked. But…I did it for attention, which was why I didn’t tell anyone? I’m just sneaky like that, I guess!) Accusations, threats, anger, pounding the table, over and over and over.

The detective looked at me. His whole demeanor changed; he tried to seem kind, avuncular. “Tell me you made the whole thing up. This whole thing will disappear. Nothing will happen to you. You can leave, if you just tell me you made it up. Tell me you made it up and you’re sorry for lying, and I’ll let you leave.”

The author would go on, through support groups and advocacy, to meet other survivors like herself. Survivors who recanted because they had to – because they knew their attacker personally and faced threats of violence, or because police refused to protect them. Unfounded cases in which all that wasn’t found was justice.

But a lopsided justice system isn’t even the only factor that shapes these statistics. It’s an entire lopsided country, and a lopsided culture:

Since we are Good Skeptics™, we know to look beyond anecdotes.

So let me add in a study of police attitudes toward rape victims… And if we could factor in the victims who never reported at all because of shit like this, that “false” rape allegation statistic would drop like a rock. Since they don’t, the statistics are skewed, making “false” allegations look more prevalent.

Now add the horrific treatment victims experience from defense attorneys who believe they’re scum. I can tell you from experience this can be worse than the rape. It can be a form of torture, and like torture victims, some rape victims will recant just to make the pain stop. Magically, their allegation is now “false.” But they’re no less raped, and the rapist is no less a sexual predator.

Add in the fact that some rapists have the lock on society, and can crush their victims. If their victims had the courage to report, they’ve soon got their buddies to sweep the crime under the rug. And another several ticks are added in the “false” rape allegation column.

Add in children who receive such a terrifying reaction to their attack that they recant just to protect themselves. More “false” rape allegations.

What about victims who aren’t supported by friends and family because many cultures make it easier to believe the victims are filthy, disgusting, crazy liars rather than people suffering from sexual assault? I think you know what happens to the statistics by now.

Add in the fact that some police departments don’t make a distinction between “reports that are actually, genuinely, provably false” and “reports that can’t be prosecuted due to statute of limitations, lack of evidence, or some other reason, but no doubt the victim was assaulted.” Both numbers end up counting under “false” allegations, although a sizable percentage weren’t false at all.

Add in about a trillion circumstances I haven’t remembered to include. Compare that to the enormous number of rapes and sexual assaults.

The reality is that false rape allegations are a tiny bit of flotsam on a sea of rape.

What these examinations of our own culture and prosecution system show us is that the idea of a pointed “false rape accusation” is, for the most part, an MRA fantasy. In fact, data shows that even when rape victims are found to be legitimately lying, making up, or imagining what happened to them in their interactions with police and other authorities, they typically aren’t targeting a specific individual. The fear that an angry ex-girlfriend or a vindictive bitch from math class is going to levy a rape accusation against an innocent man who hasn’t done anything wrong, then, is mostly fiction. And considering how many factors can turn a rape case – even a valid one – into an unfounded case, the data on “women crying rape” in order to hurt men is invisible and, more importantly, unimportant. What an unfounded rape case should look like isn’t a lie, but a lost opportunity for justice.

To focus on the falsely accused is to imagine someone who, statistically, hardly exists. And that’s assuming any of the data we have on the numbers of unfounded rapes is even accurate, which is a little more than optimistic.


I’ve heard and seen claims that false rape accusations are widespread, which reeks of actual bullshit. Despite a lack of data on how many women are willing to be publicly spit on and shamed to falsely accuse someone of rape, the existing numbers pretty clearly illustrate that it’s not widespread and also not a thing. Every crime has a false reporting statistic: the FBI, for example, claims that most indexed crimes are falsely reported 2% of the time, and Zerlina Maxwell recently pointed out that 10% of car theft claims are false. A paper crunching the numbers on false rape statistics by the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women highlighted that although existing numbers on the phenomena generally range from 2% to 8%, the higher-end measurements almost always come from the state and thus run higher due to the factors mentioned above. In some cases, when the NCPVAW folks ran over the data, they even adjusted it – moving rates from 8% down to 2.5% – to take into account how inaccurate the “unfounded” category really is.

The Washington Post, a publication I will never read again for putting “rapist” in quotation marks (just don’t do it, y’all, ever), recently did a fact-check piece on a graphic by the Enliven Project that went viral after Jackie’s story in Rolling Stone began to get picked apart. The image, in which human figures are used to boil down statistics on rape and rape prosecution, was meant to drive home the fact that the number of rapes happening in our country vastly outnumber the amounts of reports, trials, jailed offenders, and falsely accused. They relied on statistics about rape accusations and allegations from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the same NCPVAW paper I mentioned above, but ignored a lot of the context and information surrounding those numbers – as well as the competing math published elsewhere.

imrs

The Post cited a study in their fact-check by the Making a Difference project (MAD) which found, according to their fact-checkers, that 7% of rape reports are false. But I read the MAD data myself, and the chart – the one of several, pages-long archives of charts – which cited “unfounded” rape reports was an 8.5% number from – you guessed it – a police department. They then mentioned that the statistic was cited in the NCPVAW paper, but failed to mention the dialogue surrounding it in which the organization found fault with how often police label cases unfounded and adjusted the math on some of the studies they included to verify that data.

The numbers on rape overall are also skewed, and put this entire conversation into a different light when examined. Rape is a historically and massively underreported crime – yet RAINN and the Washington Post fact-check a statistic claiming that close to 40% of survivors report. Those numbers immediately struck me as too high, so I went elsewhere to double-check them. It was then that I came to the crux of the problem: the BJS data, and how it is collected, is entirely off-the-mark when it comes to numbers on sexual violence.

The BJS compiles data based on the National Criminal Victimization Survey, which is flawed in its approach for myriad ways: it occurs in person, involves one spokesperson per household, and only allows respondents to discuss criminal occurrences from the last six months in their interviews. It also uses language about rape and sexual assault that rely on criminal prosecution and definitions, making it difficult for some victims to identify with and also cutting some of them out completely. (There is no room in the survey, for example, for someone who was raped while they were unconscious or drugged to say they were victimized.) The NCVS found that 173,610 people in the US were raped in 2013, which is absolute bullshit. I know, because the other studies say so.

The Center for Disease Control statistics on rape and sexual assault, which are culled from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (last administered in 2011), paint a much starker picture of rape culture in America. The NIPSVS is a random telephone survey that includes landlines and cellphones, and their data shows that 20 percent of women are raped in their lifetime and almost 50 percent experience other sexual violence throughout their lifetime as well, like unwanted touching or non-penetration without consent. Their numbers point to 1,929,000 women alone being raped every year in the United States.

rape_prevalence_revised.0

via Vox

That’s a whole lot of women, and that data dwarfs the BJS numbers that the Post – and countless MRAs on Twitter – are using as ammo. The fact that the BJS thinks only .1% of people in the US were raped in 2012 and 2013 is a joke, and the holes in the way the NCVS collects data on sexual violence are many. But even further, their data on reported rapes sheds light on the actual problem with “false rape” numbers.

The BJS Criminal Victimization paper for 2013 claimed that 34.8% of rapes were reported that year. According to their numbers, that means 60,416 rapes were reported. That number is close to the most reliable second source we have on the matter: the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, which tallied up 79,770 rapes reported to law enforcement in the same year. But when those calculations are adjusted, you realize how minor those report numbers really are. 60,416 is almost 35 percent of 173,000 – but it’s only 3 percent of 1,929,000. And even if we relied on the FBI’s higher number, it would only be 4 percent of all of the CDC’s predicted rapes that year being reported to law enforcement. (It’s worth noting here that the CDC does not have a yearly estimate for rape of men, and only a lifetime estimate. That means that 3 and 4 percent number is actually bigger than it should be, statistically, because I’m comparing a gender-inclusive number to a larger, women-only figure.)

That’s right. 3 to 4 percent of rapes are ever reported to the police, and yet we’re concerned that those are lies. This, in the face of proof – like an MIT survey done on-campus and electronically that pointed to a 1 in 6 figure for their campus, a UK study that found only .6% of women’s rape allegations were false, and a trusted and cited campus sexual assault survey administered online in which 1 in 5 women self-identified as victims of rape or sexual assault.

Now that we’ve corrected that data set, let’s extrapolate a little bit further.

The CDC thinks 1,929,000 rapes occurred in 2014. The BJS data says 3 to 4 percent of those rapes were reported to police. Even the most generous data on unfounded rape pins the total number for all reports at around 8 percent, and even though we know from what we’ve discussed that unfounded doesn’t mean “fake” or “a lie,” let’s go ahead and assume, for the sake of comparison, that all of them were pointedly false, made-up rape accusations. (Because bitches be lying.) 8 percent of those 60,416 reported rapes would represent .2 percent of the rapes that happened that year. That means that in the face of almost 2 million rapes per year, around 4,800 would be unfounded.

However, let’s now adjust that for accuracy. Because really, it’s too generous. As we also discussed earlier, the 8 percent claim for unfounded rapes is probably more like 2 percent. And since so many of these respondents and the folks encompassed by this data clearly haven’t come forward – because only 3 or 4 percent of them did – I think it’s safe to assume that 2 percent, in this hypothetical, is a generous figure for unfounded rape overall. Using those numbers, that means that even if all the rapes that happened in 2013 were reported and prosecuted and all the cases had a different perpetrator and all those perpetrators went to jail (which, well, just isn’t gonna happen any time soon), .006% of them wouldn’t belong there. That’s a little over 1,000 out of nearly 2 million.

I need to repeat this one more time, with feeling, to get everyone to understand what I’m saying. 20 percent of women are raped in their lifetime, but we’re actually concerned with less than one percent of the population, most of whom could still function with impunity through a trial and probably never face time in our current legal system for sexually violating someone else, being falsely accused of a crime which, most of the time, nobody is even actually falsely accused of. We, as a society, are more concerned about men being falsely accused of rape – something they are more likely to win the lottery than ever experience – than we are with women being raped every day.

False rape statistics, and conversations about the prevalence of false rape allegations, are a modern Salem Witch Trial against the women of this country who face rape culture head-on every day. And I won’t fucking stand for it.


Rebel Girls is a column about women’s studies, the feminist movement, and the historical intersections of both of them. It’s kind of like taking a class, but better – because you don’t have to wear pants. To contact your professor privately, email carmen at autostraddle dot com. Ask questions about the lesson in the comments!


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Carmen is the Digital Editor at Ms. , Managing Editor at Argot, a Contributor at Everyday Feminism, and Co-Host of The Bossy Show. She previously served as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor, and Social Media Co-Director at Autostraddle. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 924 articles for us.

42 Comments

  1. This is so frustrating that this is still an issue! I have PTSD from my assault and it’s hard to feel safe with these numbers so high and it not being safe to report.We really need a look at our society as a whole and change how we treat others. So sick of guys on Call of Duty hitting on me and then when I tell them that I’m a lesbian they say that they’ll convert me and I’ve never had their dick. It’s this type of behavior and thinking that they can stick wherever they want when want that hurts our women!

  2. Thanks, this must have taken a lot of work and it is so important and appreciated. I’m going to share it on facebook and through other mediums (ie actually talking to humans and stuff) but I already know that the people who really need to read this won’t, and that sucks.

  3. a really great article you’ve put together, its the first time I’ve read any info that has actually looked into the statics involved in “false rape accusations” and the reality of the situation makes me sick to my stomach. I bought the lie, and it seems like the rollings stones story is the most recent high profile event that helped to cement this junk statistic and helped prove your exact point. rollings stones did a very poor job covering this story, did all kinds of things wrong but it seems that the victim did indeed suffer some kind of attack and trauma, but all anyone will discuss is that its a “false rape” accusation.

      • kudos to you and your curiosity, just as you say the need to question everything is a blessing and a curse. you wanted to know what was behind the statistic, how it came about. curiosity and need to not take things at face value is a big reason why victims accounts are discounted or dismissed unless they look a certain way. this article takes away that hesitancy and doubt, change the conversation indeed

  4. Stop being angry and change things for the better. Lobby government and change the law so consent requires “Yes=Yes,” educate men and women about the issue, get more money allocated to pursue rape cases and report all rapes to the police…Not reporting rapes only perpetuates the issue.

    • did you even read the article? i think we’re pretty entitled to be angry, and anyway being angry doesnt mean that we’re not also trying to change things for the better- so many women are trying to change the law, educate people etc. and this article is in fact educating people so im not really sure what your point is. Also maybe if you’d actually read the article you would know why so many people dont report, because they know they’ll be treated like shit, called liars, and triggered into ptsd by law enforcement and others. maybe if that changed THEN more people would report but until then how about you stop victim blaming?

      • Perhaps I should have said that women should “sublimate” their anger and lobby for changes in the law, funding for rape prosecution and so on. I apologize for the poor wording.

        In any case, as long as most women don’t report rape, any statistics about unreported rapes are at best an educated guess and can be easily dismissed. This is unfortunate because the public and government often use statistics to make decisions about priorities, changes in laws and resource allocation.

        The article also went to great lengths to explain that false accusations are effectively a “myth.” Yes, the current legal system is stacked against women, but if women actively lobby to have criminal law changed to a “Yes=Yes” consent rule then women will have better odds at wining rape cases.

        Also, one thing that the UVA incident has shown is that false accusations are NOT a myth. Per recent news accounts, Jackie fabricated most of the story, including the man who she supposedly dated and took her to the fraternity…Some women lie and some are mentally ill. Assuming otherwise is naive at best and detrimental to the effort of persuading nearly half of the population that significant changes are required in our society to eliminate rape incidents.

        • I think the real objection to your comment is that (a) we’re already doing that kind of thing (e.g. see educational article listed above that we’re actually discussing, the “consent is sexy campaign, protests on college campuses on how colleges handle rape cases), and (b) we can be angry and do thinks at the same time. In fact, if we weren’t comfortable expressing our anger with the system, we probably wouldn’t be comfortable doing things to show people that rape culture is such a problem, like trying to educate people. The problem isn’t that we’re angry. The problem is that people like you don’t actually want to be educated. Otherwise how could you miss the fact that like how half the article is about giving *accurate* false accusation statistics.

          But good job working the word “sublimation” into your comment. That way it seems like we’re the ones who are incapable of reading comprehension instead of you. You know, projecting your stupidity on to others rather than admitting the fact that you don’t seem to understand what concepts like “studies suggest that 2-8% of rape accusations are unfounded” means.

          • Well, I am beating a dead horse on this thread.

            Go head and vent, get angry and insult me, rant and rave and stick your head out the window and yell at the world. A lot of good it will do.

            In the end, there won’t be significant changes until criminal law is changed to “Yes=Yes” sexual consent, men and women are educated about what constitutes rape and the consequence, society makes rape prevention and prosecution a higher priority and more resources are allocated to support public policy regarding rape prevention and prosecution.

            Finally, you will never convince most men that women never lie about rape or change their minds. We know from bitter personal experience that some women lie about everything, change their minds and turn evil when they are angry at a man. Moreover, many men will find it difficult to believe that two million women a year are raped in the USA. Those unreported statistics simply don’t dovetail to our personal experience as lifelong gentlemen. Moreover, those unreported statistics are the product of studies and conjecture, which are subject to error and sometimes can be dismissed with counter analysis.

      • When I googled “autostraddle” just now, this article showed up on the first page under “news.” I have to wonder myself how the most controversial article on this or any site seem to always end up in google news feeds. Is someone just looking to create conflict in order to increase traffic of some kind? They’ve got me stomped.

        • I repeated that search and it didn’t even come up in the “more news for autostraddle” link, so perhaps other factors are at play…
          And honestly, if someone wanted to mess with the google algorithms, I think NSFW lesbosexy sunday would be the obvious choice. Because if there is one thing that straight men and queer women can agree on, it’s probably the appeal of a good looking, minimally dressed woman.

          • The results seems to change daily depending on what articles are most recent.

            As to your second point, you’ll get no argument from me!

    • Why has this comment not been deleted?

      (And suuuuuure, he comes off as someone who ~totally cares about victims/survivors and definitely had our best interests at heart~ rather than a vile misogynist sack of shit who has never believed a victim/survivor in his life, if not a rapist himself. And of course it makes ~so much sense~ that he’s telling us to sir up and do more, cause he’s ~clearly doing so much himself~ )

      • Hi Impish!

        Unfortunately, after a comment like this has been left and then replied to, we’re unable to delete it outright (because that would also involve deleting all of these lovely/perfect replies) and have to make a judgment call on whether or not to then A) leave the text of the comment and the replies intact because everyone spent so much time responding and did some real work or B) replace the text of the comment with our standard “this is in violation” text and then leave all of these amazing replies w/out context.

        In this case we’ve decided to leave this idiotic comment intact, as well as the brilliant replies from you amazing readers, because we felt it was a kickass series of replies that made us feel better after reading them. And because we do not cater to rapists, rape apologists, idiotic commenters, etc, it felt safe and even empowering to leave their pathetic comments here, with the replies, as an enduring reminder of the fact that we know and uphold our own truths and we will not kowtow to any trifling bullshit. Period.

        So John Brown’s only purpose on this website, or in life as far as I’m concerned, will be to stand as an enduring reminder that we will never deal in trifling bullshit.

    • I don’t believe you should tell the author of this article to stop being angry. Let’s get fucking pissed!! Why can’t we have emotion around such a sensitive topic? This article IS educating and that is doing a service to the community. And If a survivor does not want to report their rape, that is a totally valid option. I don’t believe people should tell other people how to handle their sexual assault.

  5. I want to give a standing ovation for this article it’s so good.

    It touched on a couple things I had been wondering about and brought new things to my attention, so thank you! I’ll have to read through the source articles too.

  6. I also really appreciate how breaking down these stats and survey methods shows how the criminal justice system is so uninvested in actually addressing sexual violence. To me, it’s just further evidence that the CJS is the wrong place to focus our energies to end and respond to sexual violence.

  7. Carmen, thank you. I tried messaging via proper AS channels, but I don’t like the asking for the whole name process, and I don’t lie about my identity, so long story short I sent an important message to you about this article via Autostraddle’s Facebook page. I hope you get it. Thank you.

  8. Do you remember when Todd Akin made that stupid comment.

    Well you know, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, well how do you, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

    When faced with a tough ethical dilemma, we humans have a common failure mode, where we try to sweep one side of the trade off under the rug and pretend its completely one sided. Its known as the Just World Fallacy. One example is the above quote, and another is the phenomenon of victim blaming where the victim of rape is assumed to be a bad person who must have deserved it, but sadly the Just World Fallacy isn’t the sole property of misogynists and their ilk. Feminists are just as susceptible as anyone to this sort of mistake and I’m worried that it may be at play in this article.

    Figuring out accurate false rape statistics is extremely hard because, as this article so eloquently explained, there’s really no fail safe way to determine which accusations are true and which are false, so by the standards of recanted testimony and story inconsistencies, a lot of accusations that get labeled as false are actually true. But(and please don’t take this as an attack or an indication that I’m not on your side (I am!)) did it even occur to you that some of the accusations that get labeled true are actually false? False positives often coexists with false negatives, and in this case it’s easy to imagine that of those who do make false accusations at least some and maybe even most manage to keep their story straight and not recant. When you find yourself searching for possible false positives and not even considering the possibility of false negatives, well… it’s not a good sign.

    Something misleading about the graphic comparing the total number rapists to those reported and falsely accused, is that for any given decision we’re trying to make regarding whether or not a person is guilty of rape, we’re almost always dealing exclusively with the group of rapists who are reported or the group of non-rapists who are falsely accused, and not with all rapists. So suddenly those two little guys don’t look quite so small (but they’re still pretty small though). Which brings us to another issue. Most rapes never reach police attention. Might the same not also be true of false accusations? After all someone out to destroy another person’s life faces the same sorts of disincentives to reporting as actual rape victims. Why get the police involved when one could just spread malicious rumors!

    And then you went and linked to that awful buzzfeed article that was based on conflating the probability of being falsely accused per sex act with being falsely accused per lifetime. Seriously? Less Likely than a COMET!? Bad sign.

    Now lets do some number crunching! Instead of trying to guess at the ratio of total rapes to total false accusations, we’ll stick with reported rapes and accusations. I’ll use the 8% figure, not because I want the figure to be high, but to make another point entirely, and I’ll use the slightly larger 2012 FBI estimate of 84,000 reported rapes that year. Multiplying those together we get 6720 false accusations per year, which is within an order of magnitude of your estimate, so I hope it doesn’t seem too unreasonable. But thats just one year. Whats a man’s lifetime risk of being falsely accused? Assuming we’re mostly dealing with men ages 15-39 here, that’s 6720 out of the 53 million such men or 1/7850 per year. Over the 24 years in that age range we get a grand total 1/327 or 0.3%. Still pretty small right? Indeed it is, but what strikes me about this number is it’s resemblance to another small number, the estimated percentage of trans people, also 0.3% (also also your chances of dieing in a car accident!).

    To focus on the falsely accused is to imagine someone who, statistically, hardly exists.

    I’m Trans, and when I see these words that you have written, I don’t think you realise the full implications of what you are saying when you say that a group of people whose lives have been destroyed can be safely ignored because they’re too small to matter.

    After doing battle with MRA fools I get how it can seem like you can either be against rape OR against false accusations, but as hard as it is to imagine you CAN actually be against both and not dismiss either problem.

    I know what you’re thinking “Why is this person criticizing my anti-rape article? She must be pro-rape. GET HER!!” But I actually just have ridiculously high standards of intellectual honesty and agree with you on most of the important things. I believe all of my friends who have told me they have been raped (a depressingly high number 🙁 ). I have never been raped, but if I ever am I hope I’ll be believed, and I know I’ll be able to find support in this wonderful community <3. I find all the examples of victims being silenced utterly horrifying. Despite my many criticisms, the balance of probability still firmly supports the accuser over the accused, so if ever I find myself in a situation where a friend is accused of rape I will probably act on the assumption that the accusation is true and stop being friends with them. The difference is while you might sleep easy comfortably assured that false accusations are "Not a thing", I'll lie awake agonizing over whether or not I did the right thing, because that's what you're supposed to do when you gamble with other peoples lives, even if it's the smart gamble. Otherwise it's just too easy to live in that Just World, where bad things only happen to bad people and all ethical decisions are easy.

    • Thank you for this comment. This sites hard left wing politics all in the name of “feminism” has gotten on my last good nerve. What’s even more frustrating is the influence it has over less informed people.

      If the author is angry as she stated she is, then please take real action. Go to the police academy, become an officer, actually help a real victim, complete a criminal investigation … but be careful, if you charge someone innocent I hope you don’t mind being sued.

      Or become a lawyer, become a victims advocate, become anything other than an Internet keyboard warrior who sits back criticizing people who are out there taking real action.

      Autostraddle’s hard left politics and anti-police postings are the reason why I will never sign up for A+, buy merchandise or click on an ad banner.

      I come here for entertainment and to make friends not to read articles from rabid “feminists” who are one sided.

      Rape is a terrible crime, and anyone who wants to lie about it deserves to be prosecuted. It’s the ones who lie that make it hard for the real victims. If Jackie’s story was a lie then she deserves to be publicly shamed. Maybe it will deter others from making false reports so authorities can focus on the real victims.

      • I think it’s a bit unfair to characterise Carmen as an “Internet keyboard warrior”. She’s done on the ground advocacy in the past, and her day job is for an organization that lobbies for women’s rights. She’s probably done more to help victims of rape than I ever will. While it’s true that there a probably more direct ways to combat rape than writing articles on the internet, culture matters, the attitudes and beliefs of the general public can and has had a huge impact on the lives of victims. And while it’s true that a lot of people are more interested in signalling outrage than solving problems, you can use that accusation on literally anyone making any kind of criticism of ANYTHING!

        Calling the postings on this website that are critical of certain police practices “anti-police” is exactly the same mistake as if someone called my above criticisms pro-rape.

        Why did you have to go and make it a right/left thing! As soon as an issue gets politicized we get stuck in Us/Them mode and it becomes that much harder to argue about it rationally.

        Finally You may have noticed that I am an A+ member. If you’re only here for the entertainment and friendship then you’ll be happy to know that that’s pretty much all the A+ content involves! So you may want to reconsider going A+.

  9. Hey just wanted to comment again that this is such a great post and I reference it constantly and my appreciation for it increases all the damn time and just basically thanks to infinity and beyond.

    Also I noticed that my accidental thumbs up situation on that nincompoop’s comment has been deleted! So also thanks to the comment-angel who made that happen.

  10. The most comprehensive studies that exist are the McDowall and Kanin studies. They are peer reviewed, meaning that their methodologies are explained in detail precisely so that the findings could be reproduced by researchers who would like to verify their conclusions. Both put the figure at above 40%, not 8% or 2%. The 2% figure comes from Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will and is literally based on nothing, even though it was cited for decades. The 8% figure is a rough FBI estimate based on “unfounded” rape allegations which are aggregated from police departments.

    “A 1996 Department of Justice report documented that “in about 25% of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI…the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing” [13]. In other words, the DNA found on the accuser didn’t match those accused.
    It is possible (though unlikely in most such cases) that the DNA mismatches are the result of misidentifications and that a rape really did occur. However, as Feminists themselves tell us, most rape does not involve strangers jumping out of the bushes. They are committed by a person the accuser knows.

    It is important to remember that this figure only represents cases that were referred to the FBI, a limitation. However, it should also be noted that even a DNA match would not in itself prove that a rape occurred; all it would prove is that intercourse occurred. A significant number of accusations involving a DNA match are false as well, meaning that more than 25% of the cases referred to the FBI in the 1996 DoJ report were false accusations.”

    “When Wendy McElroy, editor of the Web site ifeminists.com, began her investigation into the truthfulness of rape reports, she was reasonably sure the number of false accusers would be vanishingly small (many women’s rights advocates claim only 2% of accusations are false). But because of new tools such as DNA testing, the numbers have changed dramatically over the past decade, and many falsely accused men have been released from prison after tests proved their innocence. By the end of her study Ms. McElroy was forced to this conclusion:
    “… even a skeptic like me must credit a DNA exclusion rate of 20 percent that remained constant over several years when conducted by FBI labs. This is especially true when 20 percent more were found to be questionable. False accusations are not rare. They are common.””

    All the jokes about fedoras in the world aren’t going to make bigotry and persecution politics rational or believable.

  11. Hey. your data is totally fabricated. You’re making numbers up to justify your political point of view, you’re using deliberately unreliable methods of statistical data gathering (self reporting) and discounting reliable ones (FBI statistics). You’re a proud female in short, a rape hysteric.

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