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May 06, 2006

False Allegations Of Rape Not Common

As I had expected, the news about the woman who has been ordered by a judge to take her children to see their father, the man who had raped her, is bringing out the claims by men's rights activists that women frequently falsely accuse men of rape. A big problem is including unfounded cases with cases of outright false allegations. When a rape case is deemed unfounded, it does not mean the woman was lying. In some instances, it means that there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the rape. Just because there was not enough evidence does not mean that the woman had lied about being raped. It could also mean that the woman had created a fictious person out of thin air to blame a rape upon because she was late coming home. An unfounded case may not actually involve a live person. Unfounded cases are not the same thing as outright false allegations of rape made against a specific man.

Successfully Investigating Acquaintence Sexual Assault:
A National Training Manual For Law Enforcement


How Improper Unfounding Fuels The Myth Of False Allegations

Perhaps the most tragic consequence of routinely unfounding sexual assault cases, however, is that it fuels the myth that a high percentage of cases are determined to be false. The idea that women lie about rape is one of the most fundamental myths that has devastating consequences for victims when they seek support from friends, family , social services, and the criminal justice system. By improperly reporting cases as unfounded to the FBI -- and then having many members of society confuse "unfounded cases" with "false allegations" -- these inaccurate statistics create the sense that a higher percentage of sexual assault cases is deemed to be false compared with other types of cases.

* For example, the rate of unfounded sexual assault cases was 8% in 1995 and 15% in 1996, compared with 2% for all other index crimes.

However, when an effort is made to sort out unfounded cases from those that are deemed to be false, the picture is quite different.

* To illustrate, when the Portland, Oregon police department examined the 431 complaints of completed or attempted sexual assault in 1990, 1.6% were determined to be false. This was in comparison with a rate of 2.6% for false reports of stolen vehicles.

This issue is perhaps most eloquently articulated by retired NYPD sex crimes investigator Harry O'Reilly (1984):

The last myth I want to deal with is that of false accusations. Do we really have women running around making false accusations against innocent men? Does this happen? Are there false reports? Of course there are, and we must always be on the alert and be aware that victims may be telling a lie. Some women do lie, of course, but the number of women who make false reports is negligible in comparison with the number of valid complainants. In a six-month period in New York City there were around 2000 reported rapes, of which about 250 were unfounded reports. But 'unfounded' does not mean lying. Let's see what is means: 200 of the 250 were simple administrative errors. They should never have been called rapes in the first place; for example, a woman phones the station and yells rape. The police car goes out and there's no one home. The next day a detective goes to follow the incident up and the woman says "Oh yes, my boyfriend and I had a fight last night and I yelled "rape"." Why did you yell rape? "Because if I had yelled disorderly conduct, nobody is going to come, but if I yell rape I know damn sure that a cop is going to come in a hurry." That kind of thing is not a false rape charge, but a mild inconvenience to the police.

We are therefore left with potentially 50 liars out of a total of 2000 complainants. Of that 50, perhaps 20 cases of false report were made as some kind of attempt by the woman to protect herself against a tyrannical father or husband beacuse she has violated some family rule, usually a time curfew, and she has to account for why she is late. Rarely in these cases, however, does she accuse a specific person; rather, she claims that some mysterious figure in the night pulled her into a car and did this awful thing to her and caused her to be two hours late in coming home. Other times we have women who have psychological problems, loneliness being the main one, and they know that if they say "rape" the officer will come and talk with them awhile. These women have lied, of course, but no more maliciously than has the woman with the tyrannical husband/father.

After analyzing all the "unfounded" reports, we find that there were actually only five cases of women maliciously telling lies and deliberately falsely accusing men of rapes that had never been committed. In these cases the women are arrested for making false accusations - false charges are crimes which must be punished. The bottom line, then is that out of 2000 charges of rape, there were five proven liars. That is good enough evidence for me to conclude that most victims are telling the truth!


How Can Police "Create" An Unfounded Case?

Another factor that falsely inflates the rate of unfounding for sexual assault cases is that police can often "create" an unfounded case out of one that is actually legitimate. As described by Latts and Geiselman (1991), this process begins with the suspicion held by many police officers that a large percentage of sexual assault victims are lying.

If the police do not believe the victim, they may directly or indirectly make this known to her, perhaps by excessive questioning that focuses on an absence of obvious injury or some delay in reporting the incident. The victim, in turn, may become upset and withdraw her cooperation. Though the woman may have been an actual survivor of rape, her lack of cooperation is itself considered sufficient grounds for making a case as unfounded in most jurisdictions.

By not believing the victim and communicating this mistrust to her, the officer can cause a victim to become noncooperative when she would not otherwise have been. Worse, by "creating" noncooperative victims in this way, the officer fuels a misperception that most victims will not cooperate with police investigation and most sexual assault claims are without merit. The mistrust is then heightened and carried over into the next case. "The result is a never-ending spiral of suspicion and pain for both [the police officer and victim]."

Posted on May 6, 2006 at 09:35 AM | Permalink


That is suspicion for the police officer, and pain for the victim, unfortunately.

Posted by: Cynthia Wood at May 7, 2006 1:20:39 AM

My self-defense intructor actually told us that it's better to yell "rape!" rather than "no!" or "stop!" if you are being attacked because people are more likely to come running.

Posted by: Mickle at May 8, 2006 4:26:01 AM

Funny, I was always told to yell "fire!" in the event of a rape, because no one would come if I yelled "rape!"

Posted by: Olive at May 8, 2006 10:44:43 AM

Sex, lies, prison
Kathleen Parker

May 3, 2006

For the past six months, I've been staring at a 30-pound box filled with court documents and what's left of a young man's life following one college night and a 5- to 15-second disputed sex act.

That is, 5 to 15 seconds into the act of sexual intercourse, she said, "Stop."

He stopped immediately.

She claimed rape.

Thus, before his 23rd birthday, Rich Gorman of Orlando was locked behind bars in the Liberty Correctional Institute near Tallahassee, serving a five-year sentence for sexual battery.

One minute a junior at Florida State University majoring in business/computer systems, the next a prison inmate labeled a sex offender.

I've hesitated to write about the case because all such cases are complex, as we've been reminded the past several weeks by the rape case at Duke University. Gorman's case bears little resemblance to the Duke episode, except that both involve youth and alcohol, a toxic combination in the sexual arena of he said/she said.

The moral of Gorman's story, which can't be proved or disproved in this limited space, is that boys and men accused of rape have little hope of reclaiming the life they once knew, regardless of whether they're guilty or innocent.

Any objective person reading through the testimony and depositions from Gorman's case would wonder how he landed in prison.

The "victim," whom we'll call Chastity, contradicted herself and changed her story several times -- all documented in the box at my feet. She was drinking and making out with Gorman earlier in the evening.

She also went willingly into his apartment on the night in question, and this is key. She initially told police that she was pulled struggling from the car and dragged into his apartment, where she was raped. When she was told that parking lot cameras might have captured her going into the apartment, she changed her story, admitted that she wasn't forced, and that she walked voluntarily into the apartment.

My suspension of skepticism ends right there, but there's much more, including a prior rape claim by the "victim" at another college a few years earlier. Same victim, same scenario, except that she recanted in that case, saying she wasn't sure it was a rape because she was drunk. All the preceding was ruled inadmissible during Gorman's trial thanks to rape shield laws.

Again, I'm unable to do justice to the many questionable details of this case. Instead, let's focus on Gorman's nightmare, and what potentially can happen to any male who has sex with a female in the current sexual climate of virgins and demons.

After the sexual encounter -- that is, after Gorman stopped when Chastity said, "Stop" -- Gorman drove her back to campus and dropped her near her dorm. Chastity immediately called a male friend, who urged her to file a police report. In those next few hours, Rich Gorman's life was being unraveled while he slept.

He awoke to police at the door. Within hours, Gorman was charged with sexual battery and locked up. Within days, he was suspended from his college and his fraternity. Within weeks, his family was devastated, financially strapped, and hell was waiting around the corner.

Gorman went to trial twice in Tallahassee. The first, in February 2005, ended with a hung jury. The second, in June 2005, went so badly for the prosecution that Chastity's lawyers offered Gorman a plea bargain the night before the verdict: 12 months probation, no prison.

But Gorman, his parents and attorneys were so convinced of a not-guilty verdict that they passed on the plea bargain. When the jury issued a guilty verdict, the judge ordered lawyers for both sides to come up with a new plea agreement less than the mandatory 8.9 years.

To his great regret, Gorman signed off on the agreement, which also included waivers prohibiting his seeking any post-conviction relief, including raising claims of ineffective counsel.

Thus, until Gorman is 37 years old, he will be on probation, possibly under curfew, and will have to live under sex offender restrictions until he's at least 47.


Before going to trial, Gorman reconnected with his high-school sweetheart. They have a 9-month-old baby girl and hope to marry under more normal circumstances.

Before going to sleep the same night she allegedly was raped, Chastity spent the night and every night thereafter for several months with the male friend she called that night, according to depositions. Within a week of the alleged rape, she was back out partying with friends.

Two lives, two very different outcomes.

Gorman, a regular college Joe, a good student and a good son, lives behind bars for having sex with a gal he thought was willing.

Chastity, whom I know only through her testimony and depositions, may have been a regular college Jane. But she also had a record of finding herself in situations she later regretted. She also apparently had a drug problem.

In February 2004, a year before Gorman's first trial, her father took her out of school and installed her in rehab for a cocaine addiction, according to the father's deposition. Chastity refused to stay longer than three days.

One life goes on. The other is ruined.

Five seconds -- or 15 -- is all it takes.

Kathleen Parker can be reached at kparker@orlandosentinel.com or at 407-420-5202.

Posted by: Mother at May 9, 2006 12:54:06 PM

Uh, mother, Parker is a conservatie wingnut who has misrepresetned the case. If you're a woman---which I doubt---please have a sex change, becuase you sound just like an MRA.

Posted by: ginmar at May 11, 2006 11:00:14 AM

My son is in a similar situation in Wyoming. The public defender says he doesn't n't have much of a chance sincethe jury is made up of older people & usually convict.

Posted by: n mason at May 11, 2006 10:22:18 PM

>When a rape case is deemed unfounded, it does not mean the woman was lying. In some instances, it means that there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the rape.<
Actually, when any case is deemed unfounded it means it has been deemed unfounded.

Cases with lack of evidence, or not enough evidence, where a proscecutor believes the crime has actually been commited, are usually deemed "inexpediant to proscecute", leaving it open to civil courts where one can procede to get the money without the inconvienance of proving, beyond reasonable doubt, their accusations before a jury of an accused persons peers.

Posted by: at May 15, 2006 9:29:12 PM