“False Rape Accusations May Be More Common Than Thought”

by Walter Olson on May 4, 2006

Yeah, and thought’s common enough (Wendy McElroy, FoxNews.com, May 2).

All levity aside, this is a serious column laying out some statistics adduced a decade ago by Peter Neufeld and Barry C. Scheck of the Innocence Project:

They stated, “Every year since 1989, in about 25 percent of the sexual assault cases referred to the FBI where results could be obtained, the primary suspect has been excluded by forensic DNA testing. Specifically, FBI officials report that out of roughly 10,000 sexual assault cases since 1989, about 2,000 tests have been inconclusive, about 2,000 tests have excluded the primary suspect, and about 6,000 have “matched” or included the primary suspect.”

The authors continued, “these percentages have remained constant for 7 years, and the National Institute of Justice’s informal survey of private laboratories reveals a strikingly similar 26 percent exclusion rate.”

If the foregoing results can be extrapolated, then the rate of false reports is roughly between 20 (if DNA excludes an accused) to 40 percent (if inconclusive DNA is added). The relatively low estimate of 25 to 26 percent is probably accurate, especially since it is supported by other sources.

McElroy cites a number of caveats which should be kept in mind by those who would cite the Neufeld/Scheck numbers. At a minimum, however, they should serve to refute the still-sometimes-heard contention that false accusation is exceedingly rare. More from McElroy: “Duke Rape Case Raises Issue of Protecting Identity of Accused”, FoxNews.com, Apr. 26; “Did Justice or Politics Drive Arrests in Duke Lacrosse Case?”, Apr. 18). More on Duke case: Cathy Young, syndicated/Reason.com, May 2. P.S. A riposte, and comments, at Ampersand.

{ 3 comments }

1 ja 05.04.06 at 7:06 am

The article reinforces the idea that an eyewitness may ot be the best source of information to identify the perpetrator.

I wonder if the distinction between the 2 percent number and the 25 percent value is that 25 percent of those accused of performing a rape are misidentified versus 2 percent of women reporting to be raped have not in fact been raped.

2 dad 05.04.06 at 10:28 am

I demur.

“Thought” is extremely UN-common.

3 P.F.Monte 05.04.06 at 1:53 pm

See Kathleen Parker’s very recent editorial on this subject. It’s much more common that many realize, and there are powerful political/iedological forces who would prefer that the word not get out.

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