assertion from forces against Brett
M. Kavanaugh that false allegations of
rape or attempted rape are extremely rare is rebutted by a
number of studies, researchers say.
on TV and social media said repeatedly during the Senate
confirmation process that only 2 percent of charges are lies —
meaning there likely would be truth in the majority of such
charges, such as that of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused
now-Supreme Court Justice
Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36
E. Turvey, a criminologist, wrote a 2017 book that dispels
this notion. His research, and that of two co-authors, cited
statistical studies and police crime reports. One academic study
showed that as many as 40 percent of sexual assault charges are
Turvey wrote that the FBI in the 1990s
pegged the falsity rate at 8 percent for rape or attempted rape
no shortage of politicians, victims’ advocates and news articles
claiming that the nationwide false report for rape and sexual
assault is almost nonexistent, presenting a figure of around 2
percent,” writes Mr.
Turvey, who directs the Forensic Criminology Institute.
“This figure is not only inaccurate, but also it has no basis in
reality. Reporting it publicly as a valid frequency rate with
any empirical basis is either scientifically negligent or
study supports this assessment. The Pentagon issues an annual
report on sexual assaults in the military. Nearly one-quarter of
all cases last year were thrown out for lack of evidence,
according to a report released in May.
appears that die-hard opponents of Kavanaugh have
invented a narrative to imply that false accusations hardly ever
happen,” said Elaine Donnelly, who directs the Center for
where they are going with this,” she said. “Any man who doubts
Ford is hostile to women experiencing abuse, who make
accusations truthfully 90 to 98 percent of the time. This is why
hard data from the Pentagon, which shows rates of false
accusations averaging 18 percent in annual reports since 2009,
advocates say that an unfounded case doesn’t necessarily mean
the accuser was lying.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center puts the false report
rate at 2 percent to 10 percent.
shows that rates of false reporting are frequently inflated, in
part because of inconsistent definitions and protocols, or a
weak understanding of sexual assault,” the center said.
women accused Justice
Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct. During
the confirmation process, the FBI looked at two of those
complaints: Ms. Ford’s and one from Deborah Ramirez, a former Kavanaugh classmate
at Yale University. The FBI, as well as Senate Judiciary
Committee Republican staff, interviewed potential witnesses who
didn’t back up either charge.
charge, Julie Swetnick’s accusation of gang rape, was deemed not
credible by Republicans and wasn’t on the FBI interview list.
showcased Ms. Swetnick and reported that she provided the names
of four witnesses. One was dead, one said she didn’t know Ms.
Swetnick and two didn’t respond.
Ramirez and Ms. Swetnick refused the committee’s requests for
interviews, according to Republican staffers.
testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27 that Justice
Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a high
school house party 36 years ago when he was 17. He denied the
event ever happened. The FBI reported to the committee that
agents interviewed supposed attendees, including Ms. Ford’s high
school best friend. They all failed to corroborate that the
party took place.
administration ordered the military to wipe out sexual crimes,
leading the Pentagon to improve one of the most extensive
sex-crime-tracking studies in the country from the Defense
Department’s sexual assault prevention and response office. The
campaign’s objective was to spur more personnel to report
assaults — which they have.
statistics on unfounded cases are contained in an appendix of
3,567 cases last year. Of those, 729 cases were dropped because
of “insufficient evidence” that a crime was committed. Another
79 were deemed “unfounded” at the command/legal review level.
The total — 808 — represents 23 percent of all cases that year.
Donnelly said the Defense Department office, up until 2015,
classified those two categories of cases — insufficient evidence
during the investigation or at the command level — as
the rate of unfounded complaints jumped from 13 percent in 2009
to 26 percent in 2016 and fell to 23 percent last year.
Turvey’s 2017 book, “False Allegations: Investigative and
Forensic Issues in Fraudulent Reports of Crime,” looked at a
range of bogus reporting, including on rape and sexual assault.
He examined existing studies and police statistics.
reports happen, they are recurrent and there are laws in place
to deal with them when they do,” he wrote. “They are, for lack
of a better word, common.”
Turvey quotes a study by researcher
Edward Greer, past president of the Association American Law
Schools. He traced the one and only source for the “2 percent”
assertion to a 1975 book, “Against Our Will: Men, Women and
Rape,” which quoted statistics from New York City, not from
across the nation.
Turvey cites 10 studies that debunk the
2 percent assertion in the U.S. and abroad.
power of any lie is equal only to our desire to believe it,” Mr.
Turvey wrote. “Specifically, our need
and eagerness to believe it. This is the problem with belief —
which is accepting something as true or correct without proof.”
assault is a broad term that encompasses different types of
penetration, attempted penetration and unwanted touching or
statistical purposes, the Justice Department tracks rapes,
attempted rapes and a threat of rape as one category. It keeps
separate statistics on other types of sexual assaults.
defines assault as “A wide range of victimizations, separate
from rape or attempted rape. These crimes include attacks or
attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact
between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not
involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling.
It also includes verbal threats.”
commentator Michelle Malkin says the 2 percent number was one of
the most frequent weapons unleashed against Justice
Kavanaugh, who was confirmed and sworn in on Saturday.
truth is that number has no documented empirical basis,” Ms.
Malkin said in a Twitter video.