It turns out that false rape charges, where a woman claims she was raped but wasn’t, is in the 6 to 8% range – which is not an insubstantial number. And when you add in the allegations that weren’t proven or disproven, the number of cases of potential false reporting goes up. (There are links at the bottom of the page to sources for these numbers). But basically – here is the rundown of basic percentages of what happens when a woman reports a rape:
- 35% enough evidence to prosecute
- 45% – not enough evidence to prosecute – but not necessarily false
- 14% not coded either way.
- 6% false (though that might not be accurate as that number includes police bias to prove false reporting).
Plus – it is estimated that 60% of all rapes go unreported – so these stats are just for the cases that got reported. What I want to consider is how the false report bias as impacting the low level of reporting to begin with. The likelihood is that if a woman reports a rape – she either was raped or was assaulted in some way. The question is whether what happened was consensual or not is what makes prosecution hard. But outright false reports only occur 6 to 8% of the time. This means, 92% to 94% of the time, something of a sexual nature happened and the woman is claiming that what happened wasn’t consensual. The problem is that men don’t always know they are raping or harassing a woman. They may very well think if they succeed in accessing sex, then the girl must have consented. And this is where we come back to bullies and harassment. This same attitude is seen in bullies. Most don’t know they are bullying. They are just doing what they need to do to get what they want and if they succeed, what’s the problem? The other aspect of this that is important for people investigating claims of bullying or harassment is that we do need to acknowledge that false reports do occur. They just don’t happen all that often. One thing investigators need to consider is that it is important to give people who report harassment or bullying the benefit of the doubt. Because something probably did happen. 90+% of the time, something happened. The rate of false reporting is really quite low, so it’s best to work on the assumption something inappropriate did happen. You still have to conduct a fair investigation, but what this means is that you need to organize your investigation to track and monitor potential incidences of retaliation because more than 90% of the time, you are going to see retaliation happen. So look out for it. This low rate of false reporting should also inform business professionals. The idea that if you open up an anonymous reporting system for people to report harassment in the workplace, you will be opening the doors to a bunch of false reports is nonsense. Over 90% of the reports you get will be about something that actually happened that you need to deal with effectively to maintain a respectful work environment. And for those 6% false report rates? Guess what. A good tip reporting and investigation system will help you identify those as well. Don’t allow managers who are afraid of false reports being levied against them stop you from taking this seriously.