The act of rape is defined as any non-consensual intercourse with another person, accomplished by means of force or threats. Of course, there is absolutely no denying that rape is a very real and very serious legal offense, however, just as dangerous and damaging as the crude crime itself, are false accusations and the alarmingly frequent rates in which they occur.
Between 2007 and 2012, the United States reported an estimated average of 90,000 forcible rapes per year (90,427 in 2007 and 89,000 in 2012) – this figures to be roughly 247 rapes per day and 1.7 rapes per minute in America. While this number is obviously staggering at first glance, it's also vastly inflated because of the fact that the FBI reported that in 2008, 40% of the some 90,000 total rapes, were cleared by the time of arrest, due to “exceptional means.”
For contextual purposes, clearance by exceptional means occurs when the alleged suspect dies before ever being arrested but, more frequently, when the victim of a rape refuses to provide the information or assistance necessary to follow an investigation through to an arrest. Ultimately, because premature death accounts for a mere fraction of all exceptional means, this loosely translates to the conclusion that 40% of rapes are cleared before the arrest ever occurs because the victim refuses to move forward with the investigation because, in the end, it's a false accusation.
Even more interesting, in addition to these 40% of cases never making it to arrest because of exceptional means, stats from 1996 show that, of the total number of cases reported, 15% of all forcible rape cases were ultimately closed as unfounded – 8% of cases in 1994 reached the same conclusion. With the said 40% of rape accusations being thwarted before ever going to trial and roughly another 12% being closed as unfounded, that suggests that nearly 50% of all rape accusations are either entirely false or largely unfounded.
Further, a recent poll taken from college students revealed that college students, both male and female alike, believe that 50% of all reported campus rapes are false. While this might not sit right with some, it resembles an eerie likeness to the documented numbers above – 50% fabrication, across the board.
Now, faced with the notion that 1 in 2 rapes is a false accusation, it's worth looking into the common reasons why victims may feel compelled to cry wolf – after all, a conviction of rape is a harsh felony charge that carries with it up to eight years in prison (more if the victim is injured during the assault) and the burden of being a registered sex offender for life.One very common motive for a false rape accusation is unbridled anger, jealousy and/or spite. Whether a relationship ended badly or one lover feels slighted by the other, revenge, with the intent to harm the other's reputation is an all-too-common cause of false reports of rape.
Another motive behind false accusations sits simply in a “victim's” efforts to gain attention, doing whatever it takes to keep themselves in the spotlight. Stemming from some degree of mental health issues or pure narcissism, many victims deem themselves as so desirable that they can't deal with rejection and, as part of their skewed mental pathology, they'll drag another's name through the mud to prop up their own.
Lastly, and most commonly, false rape accusations often arise out of an innocent misunderstanding or embarrassment. Yes, because 47% of rapes occur where both the victim and the perpetrator have been drinking, the lines are often blurred and communication is often slurred. What could easily be avoided with a clear head, can easily take a turn for the worse when intoxication removes reason.As for embarrassment, all too often a young girl will consensually engage in a sexual activity that she later regrets and, as a scapegoat, will cry rape to either ease her own conscience or to distance herself from the accountability in her decisions.
Despite the fact that nearly 50% or rape accusations never reach the court room or are eventually unfounded, there is still a hefty number of guilty charges brought upon the innocent. In a very unfortunate series of events, there have been countless cases where an alleged rapist has served a substantial amount of time in prison, only to be found innocent at a later date.Raymond Towler, for example, spent a total of 29 years in prison for a 1981 rape that he never committed. In fact, only through advanced DNA technologies was he able to walk out of the Justice Center of Cleveland, as a free man.
Even if prison time is never served, the false accusation of rape has a way of forever attaching itself to someone's name, reputation and character. In an unfortunate case in Long Beach, CA, a 16-year-old Brian Banks had verbally accepted a four-year scholarship to play football at the University of Southern California when a fellow classmate and childhood friend accused him of raping her. Although completely fabricated, Banks' name was tarnished as he served five years in prison and lost the scholarship opportunity of a lifetime, effectively killing his dream to play football professionally.
Labeled an epidemic by some, due to their dramatic increase in prevalence, false accusations are a dark tool that wields the power to destroy. With felony charges, extensive prison time and a man's reputation on the line, the bold accusation of rape is one that should never be taken lightly, however, as illustrated in this article, it's a card that is too often played recklessly.