Saturday, March 12, 2011

Crying wolf...false rape claims and misconceptions

It is impossible to assess the number of false rape claims made in the UK and Baroness Stern has requested in her review that further research be done to try and establish how prevalent they are.

But she also says "the research that is available on false allegations gives a wide range of figures for how many there are, although those we spoke to in the system felt that there were very few" (my italics).

But false rape claims attract a disproportionate amount of press coverage - we can speculate about the reasons for that - resulting in a widely held view that such allegations are relatively common. When a woman (usually a woman) is convicted of making such a claim, a custodial sentence is commonly handed down.

The 2005 report by Kelly, Lovett, and Regan, A Gap Or A Chasm, suggested that the proportion of all rape allegations made that are subsequently found to be false is around 3%. Three in every hundred.

Undoubtedly, being the victim of a false allegation of rape is a horrible experience and can impact on the person for many years, as the allegation will be on their record and show up in Criminal Records Bureau checks.

But that does not mean the victims of sex crimes should be automatically doubted when they tell their story. Because it's far more likely they are telling the truth.

And too many rapists are escaping justice because they are often the ones being given the benefit of the doubt rather than their victims.

I believe the first response to someone's account of a distressing sexual assault is to say WE BELIEVE YOU.

If hard evidence later comes to light that the allegation was false, then action should be taken accordingly.

(Although I would question whether retribution in the form of a prison sentence is the most effective form of punishment here. Perhaps the person concerned should make amends, rather than be incarcerated at a high cost to tax-payers?)

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