What kind of person makes a false rape accusation anyway?
The stories of false rape accusations are compelling: Man’s life ruined by a vindictive woman who has zero evidence. But what does the data say?
The biggest takeaway is that false rape accusations almost never have serious consequences. It makes sense when you follow the data trail.
About 2%-10% of rape accusations are estimated to be false. Of those, less than 1% of accusations actually result in charges being brought. Of the cases where false charges are brought and it actually results in a conviction? There have been 52 cases of this since 1989…out of hundreds of thousands of rape convictions. There are more 4x as many people falsely accused of murder than there are people who have been falsely accused of rape. This is pretty significant since murder conviction rates are less than 1/3 the rate of rape conviction rates.
People who falsely accuse others of rape also tend to follow a pattern. “When one looks at a series of fabricated sexual assaults, on the other hand, patterns immediately begin to emerge. The most striking of these is that, almost invariably, adult false accusers who persist in pursuing charges have a previous history of bizarre fabrications or criminal fraud. Indeed, they’re often criminals whose family and friends are also criminals; broken people trapped in chaotic lives.
Crystal Mangum, the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case, was the archetypal false accuser. She had previously reported another brutal rape/kidnapping in which no one was ever charged. She had a previous felony conviction, and she ultimately went to prison for an unrelated crime (in her case, murdering her boyfriend). She had trouble keeping her stripping job because the combination of drugs she was on—including both anti-depressants and methadone—made her keep falling asleep at work. Tragically, she seems to have genuinely suffered sexual abuse as a child—another feature that often appears in adult false accusers...
When a woman says she’s been brutally raped by seven men at a public party on a bed of broken glass, as the UVA accuser did, and when that woman has a history of strange lies, as the UVA accuser also did, there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical. But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true. This is not because of any political dictum like ‘Believe women.’ It’s because this story looks exactly like tens of thousands of date rapes that happen every year, and nothing at all like a false rape accusation.”
Can somebody’s life be ruined by a false rape accusation? Yes, the possibility exists. How often does this happen? It’s rare. Extremely rare. So rare that you are more than twelve times as likely to be falsely convicted of murdering someone than you are to be falsely convicted of raping someone.