The truth about false rape accusations — Quartz
False rape accusations loom large in the cultural imagination. We don’t forget the big ones: The widely-read 2014 Rolling Stone article, later retracted, about a brutal gang rape at the University of Virginia; the 2006 accusations against innocent members of the Duke University lacrosse team. These cases are readily cited by defense attorneys and Republican lawmakers and anyone else who wants a reason to discuss the dangers of false allegations. What if a woman has consensual sex, and then regrets it the next day? What if a woman gets dumped by her boyfriend and decides to accuse him of rape as revenge? What if she’s just doing it for attention? Are false accusations reaching epidemic levels in today’s hard-drinking hookup culture, where the lines of consent have been blurred? Critics argue that reports of rape should be treated with more caution, since men’s lives are so often ruined by women’s malicious lies.
But my research—including academic studies, journalistic accounts, and cases recorded in the US National Registry of Exonerations—suggests that every part of this narrative is wrong. What’s more, it’s wrong in ways that help real rapists escape justice, while perversely making it more likely that we will miss the signs of false reports.