False Rape Accusations

I got to thinking about the Kavanaugh case and the #IBelieveSurvivors movement. As folks who follow my work know, I’m a data junkie. I don’t believe anecdotes. I want evidence, facts, data. I agree totally with what Robert Heinlein said:

“What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”

So I went to the National Registry of Exoneration to get the facts about men mistakenly convicted of rape. The Registry contains a variety of evidence regarding 2,285 people who were convicted of a serious crime, and who were later exonerated when new evidence came to light. I filtered the database and got the data on all cases of men exonerated of rape, a total of 620 cases.

What I wanted to find out was WHY these men were falsely convicted. Was it mishandled evidence? Was it prosecutorial misconduct? Was it errors by the crime scene investigators? Here are the results:

reasons for false rape convictions.png

More than half of the false convictions were because some jury thought that #IBelieveSurvivors was a good plan … more than half involved either perjury or false accusation.

And over 90% of the false rape convictions were from believing people who were either mistaken or were flat-out lying about what happened.

Now, please be clear. On my planet, rape is one of the vilest and most heinous of crimes. I have huge compassion for the victims of sexual attacks. And this is not only because they were attacked. I also have great sympathy for the problems that they face after the attack—in revealing what happened to friends and family, in going to the police, and in testifying in court. Each of these is a new trauma, a new indignity, a new reliving of the pain of the incident, and a new assault on the victim.

But in our justice system, we hold that it’s better for ten guilty people to go free than for one innocent to be imprisoned.

And in the 620 cases of people who were wrongly imprisoned for rape, the median length of time that they spent in a cage for something that they didn’t do was fifteen long, endless years. Fifteen years! One poor bastard was locked up for 46 years for a crime that it was later proved that he did NOT commit.

Next, please note … not all men falsely accused of rape have been exonerated. There are undoubtedly many more men who are doing time in prison for rapes that they didn’t commit than those 620 who have been exonerated …

In addition, there is another large group of men out there, wrongly convicted of rape, who have to suffer even after they get out of prison. They are followed after release and have to face a variety of regulations, restrictions, and even attacks for the remainder of their lives. Imagine being totally innocent and having this sign outside your front door …

false rape convictions

This is why the hashtag #IBelieveSurvivors is both profoundly wrong and profoundly un-American. Mistaken identification, perjury, and false accusation are far too common. More than 90% of the mistaken convictions for rape occurred because the jury believed someone they should have distrusted.

In short, we shouldn’t automatically believe anyone—not men, not survivors, not women, not saints, not victims, not children, not priests, not doctors, not sinners, not teachers, every group of humanoids contains the usual number of people who, either deliberately or mistakenly, will bear false witness against someone else.

And this is also why I thought that Justice Kavanaugh should indeed have been confirmed. It doesn’t matter whether you believe Dr. Ford or not. At the end of the day, all that we had was her sole, uncorroborated, unconfirmed accusations … well, that plus sworn statements and public records showing that she was … mmm … well, let me call it “shading the truth” about her claustrophobia, about her fear of flying, and about the reason for having two doors on only one of her two houses …

We had no physical evidence. We had no contemporaneous outcry. We had no date when it was supposed to have happened. We had no one who backed up her story. We had no location. We had nothing but her accusation … plus the sworn denials of the four people she named as being there.

And in my America, setting her other deceptive statements totally aside, even if you firmly believe one single solitary person’s uncorroborated, unsupported, unconfirmed accusation, that is far, far from enough to throw a man in prison, or to ruin a good man’s name forever, or to deny him a job, even an important lifetime job.

Sadly, however, there were a number of Democratic politicians both high and low who were more than willing to do just that … which is a very scary fact. Vote, folks, vote … this is an important election.

Final conclusion? Having been falsely accused of a crime myself, I can only wish that it never, ever happens to you …


23 thoughts on “False Rape Accusations

  1. Whoopi Goldberg once said, in defense of Roman Polanski, it wasn’t rape-rape.
    “I know it wasn’t rape-rape. I think it was something else, but I don’t believe it was rape-rape.”

    The video is of when she said it on The View. It’s a good discussion. Another comment from someone else in that panel discussion was: “He made a little mistake 32 years ago”. And he pled guilty to a lesser charge.

    Most, except possibly Hollywood, think it was rape-rape, and maybe Hollywood does now too. That’s not my point. My point is that, even though Whoopi is wrong in this case, there are different levels of rape.
    There is rape-rape, if you will, in which somebody abducts you and forces you and you consider yourself lucky if you do not end up dead in a cornfield or a ditch or dumpster. And then there is at the other extreme consensual sex gone bad. And even worse, claims of rape against people you don’t like with no basis in fact at all.

    I’m thinking that in cases of rape-rape, the perjury and false accusation slice of the pie would be much smaller.

    Here is a recent example of a known false accusation.


  2. The major problem with false accusations, of all types, is those making them do not get severely punished. There is a case where I live of a group of girls “colluding” to falsely accuse a boy of sexual assaults, they have all admitted lying. Now people are just saying “move on, it is just kids being kids”. No, this boy’s live has been permanently damaged, the school district and local LE has already treated him as guilty and punished him and now both are simply claiming”we followed the law, we did nothing wrong” and are opposing prosecuting the girls for their crimes. This is why this crap happens so much, people know they can lie and never be punished.


    • Some years ago I read a book titled “The myth of male power” which cited DOJ statistics that showed one-third to half of rape accusations proved to be false. And those statistics were from about 25 years ago as of today. With the SJW/#MeToo hysteria, today it’s likely much worse especially with the vague “sexual assault” charge. Anyone who automatically believes the woman without seeing evidence is either profoundly stupid or of profoundly defective moral character.


    • Thanks, 2hotel9. I’d support a law saying that if you falsely accuse someone of a crime, that the penalty would be whatever the falsely accused person would have gotten if they had been convicted. That would make it less likely that someone would falsely accuse another person of a felony or a serious crime …


      Liked by 2 people

  3. There is another grouping that is not typically reported, so those cases don’t find their way into the statistics. They consist of false accusations of rape and/or fatherhood to gain payoffs from guys with large trust funds. I have know three, one in his mid twenties and two in their forties. In most cases the trust fund administrators just paid the girls or their families to keep quite. Only one case, of several they had mentioned, went to court when the guy’s lawyer found out she had made similar accusations twice before.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I was falsely accused of a serious crime when I was in high school. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I had been impersonated. No, the government didn’t apologize. Fortunately for me, it never got to the point where I was charged with said crime. Flip side … I have had to deal with rape complaints. Far too many rape complaints. Rape is awful. These complaints were ones formally brought. Some got as far as set for trial, so I had to be ready to testify, though most didn’t get that far. I guess they were settled by plea agreements.

    @ Joe … now-a-days defendants, particularly criminal defendants and child support defendants can be required to have blood drawn for blood type, Human leukocyte antigen type and DNA for restriction fragment length polymorphism type. Likely others have been added since I left that business.


      • There is another set of cases that even state of the art science cannot solve, especially with the current attitudes. I’m not sure how prevalent is today but years ago young girls, usually in high school or early college, after consenting to sex might change their minds the next day due to parental pressure, peer pressure, religious teachings, etc. I guess the only way to protect from this is for boys/men to carry small hidden voice recorders capable of recording the entire evening and save the tapes or their equivalent for at least 35 or 40 years. Sounds kind of cold though…


    • CD, sorry you had to go through that.

      As for technology coming to the rescue, it may sound cruel but the legal system needs to require a hospital administrated rape kit before processing a rape complaint. You could never trust a self administered kit. As well, paternity suits should always require state of the art DNA testing and verification. The possible long term incarceration of the accused in the case of rape, or years of support for paternity far outweigh any embarrassment or religious convictions of the accuser.


      • Hmm, didn’t know that there were self-administered kits. I’d wonder about those being allowed as testimony, particularly the restrictions on it. The ones I know of, were all hospital administered kits. That was the law, at the time. Filing a complaint triggered the requirement for a medical examination. I guess that these could be done at the doctor’s office, too; if the kit was made available. Of course, not all rapes would have visible evidence left; and not all evidence of injury would be specific to rape. As said, rapes are awful.


  5. Women falsely accusing men of rape is not new. When I was in junior high school I learned of a girl (from a friend of my brothers) who loved to lead guys on into consensual sex, then half way through it started screaming ‘rape’. She got several guys arrested before people started to realize that she was lying. I don’t know if any of those guys went to prison or not, but they were taken away by the police.

    This has been a problem for at least as long as people have been around. Hence the biblical commandment: Thou shall not bear false witness.

    Yes, being falsely accused of a crime sucks. Even if they don’t go to the police but simply tell all their friends. But going to the police is definitely taking it up a notch and those caught doing it need to serve the full sentence that the person the accused would have served. And police officers and prosecutors who move forward without evidence need to do hard time as well.


  6. As an analyst who was actually in the business of counting crimes, I would like to comment on the claim that only 5% of rapes are classified as unfounded. This is true, but one has to realize that to close a case as unfounded the incident requires that it be sufficiently investigated to result in that finding. There is also a hesitancy on part of agencies to classify an incident that way. While it closes the case, which is good for the agency, it also invites attention from various (militant) interest groups.

    What is more common is once the accusation begins to fall apart, the investigators simply tosses the report into slush pile of unresolved cases and moves on.


  7. The (UK) Telegraph had an article and letter about the head of the CPS (criminal prosecution service) who is due to “retire” after leading the organisation through the highest number of cases collapsing due to evidence not being passed to the defense or brought to court, she will automaticaly get an honour but some of the victims of these misstakes feel she should not get any recognition for the catalogue of failures she has overseen.

    James Bull


  8. …More than half of the false convictions were because some jury thought that #IBelieveSurvivors was a good plan … more than half involved either perjury or false accusation.

    And over 90% of the false rape convictions were from believing people who were either mistaken or were flat-out lying about what happened….

    While I understand the general gist of your comments, you yourself have taught us to be very cautious when interpreting statistical arguments.

    So it seemed to me, when I started to look at your data (assuming that all people found innocent actually ARE innocent), that EVERY person correctly exonerated MUST be the victim of a false (either malicious or mistaken) accusation. There are, of course, false admissions to crimes – I don’t know if you are counting these as ‘false self-accusations’, but I suspect that they are only a small figure.


    • Thanks, Dodgy. In general it is VERY difficult to get a conviction reversed. It requires very strong evidence to overturn an existing conviction. Typically, in rape cases either someone has to totally recant their testimony, or more recently, a testing or a re-testing of DNA evidence has to show that the convicted person couldn’t have committed the crime.

      So my sense is that only a vanishingly small percentage of those whose convictions were overturned were in fact guilty as charged.

      Best regards, thanks for the comment,



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