How often are allegations of sexual assault false?

This is a question with no easy answer. Literature and studies attempting to answer this question have had wide-ranging results, from as few as 1.5 percent to as many as 90 percent.

One of the most influential studies was published in 1994 and found that 41 percent of sexual assault allegations were false. This study was based on an evaluation of 109 sexual assault allegations made over a nine-year period to the same police department. An element of this study, which has made it suspect, is that the determination as to the falsity of the rape was made solely by the investigating detectives, not the researchers or any other reviewers.

Another reason the 1994 study has been criticized is that the police department in question had as a routine practice to offer all sexual abuse claimants access to a polygraph test. This practice has been subsequently called into question and prohibited because of its “intimidating impact” on victims. In other words, when subjected to the possibility of a polygraph test, victims have been shown to be intimidated by perceived skepticism on the part of the police and to recant their allegations. Researchers caution that recanting of an allegation does not necessarily mean the original allegation was false and is done for a variety of reasons not related to the veracity of the claim of sexual assault.

Studies that have addressed the methodological problems in the 1994 study have found the false-allegation rate to be somewhere in the range of 2 to 8 percent.

One of the studies that found the false-allegation rate to be 7 percent involved 2,059 cases collected in an 18- to 24-month period from a variety of law enforcement agencies. In this study, the participating police departments were all provided the same training with respect to how to identify and classify a “false report” and a random selection of cases were reviewed for data entry errors.

Other studies conducted outside the United States on the topic of false allegations of rape and sexual abuse have fit within the 2 to 8 percent range as well.

Speak to a criminal defense attorney

Being accused of rape is something nobody ever expects. False accusations in sexual assault cases do happen, and when they do, they should not be taken lightly. Mere allegations, let alone a sexual assault conviction, can have long-lasting and life-changing consequences.

Don’t delay. Talk with a Wisconsin sexual assault attorney as soon as possible. Call Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., today at 608-620-0018 or contact us online for a free 30-minute initial and confidential consultation about your situation.

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