Friday, April 14, 2006

The False Accusations Meme

You can find a snippet of it in the comments here at Feministing, as well as in the comments at a number of web sites devoted to the horror that is False Accusations of Rape.

Two bits, in particular, are widely repeated:

- In the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit’s study of False Allegations conducted in 1983 of 556 rape investigations, a total of 220 (40%) of these reported rapes turned out to be false. -

- Linda Fairstein, who directs the prosecution of sexual assault in New York, says that there are approximately 4,000 reports of rape each year in Manhattan. Of these, about half simply did not happen. Says Fairstein, “It’s my job to bring justice to the man who has been falsely accused by a woman who has a grudge against him, just as it’s my job to prosecute the real thing.”

It's bogus. The whole thing. This information is brought to you from a 90-page self-published book by James Anderson, who was doing time for the crime of rape in 1993. Anderson lists the FBI information (without a useful citation), but I can't find it. I can't find the original source for the statistic anywhere. The closest I can come is this statement:
The number often cited is from the Crime Index Offenses tracked by the FBI. For example, the 1997 UCR states that, “a higher percentage of complaints of forcible rape are determined “unfounded” or found by investigation to be false, than for any other Index Crime. While the average of “unfounded” rates for all Crime Index offenses was 2% in 1997, 8 percent of the forcible rape complaints were “unfounded” for the same time frame.”
Catch that? It's tricky: "unfounded or...false." They're not the same. Some reasons investigating officers might "unfound" a report: the involvement of drugs or alcohol, an uncooperative victim,
Delayed report

Report made to a person other than law enforcement

The victim is indifferent to injuries or seems to experience a lack of pain

The victim is extremely vague about details of the assault, or is extremely detailed

The victim attempts to steer away from unsafe details in the description of the assault, i.e., suspect description or location of offense

In short, many of the common elements of the crime and/or the reporting of it are the very reasons that investigators may not believe it.

Likewise, I can't find an original source for the Linda Fairstein quote. However, I have read her excellent book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape and I can assure you, she never says anything even close. Furthermore, since her job was prosecuting sex crimes, it was not her job to prosecute women with grudges. On the contrary, a huge part of the success of her program was in training law enforcement on how to be sensitive to crime victims and understand the reports they were receiving.

And if you haven't had enough of lies about rape, check the FBI's definition of forcible rape
carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will
in the UCR reflects the thinking of the 19th century. Males can be assaulted, but not raped. Women who were not beaten, were not raped. A boy under age six cannot, by the FBI's definitions, be raped. Incest isn't rape, the sexual assault of someone who is incapacitated isn't rape, etc. By their reckoning, rape just isn't a big problem. Aren'y you relieved?

In the popular mind, as witnessed on the web following accounts of the Duke case, a report lacking in substantiation is "false" and should be penalized. Most of those folks who are calling for swift and terrible justice to fall upon the head of the victim discount entirely the witnesses, the supporting medical evidence, the scene of the crime evidence, etc. This is a remarkably strong case, regardless of what the defense attorneys would like you to believe.

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