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Two Australian researchers scrunitised the claim that just 5 percent of rape allegations are false
Remember how the Brittany Higgins case blew up when a juror brought into the jury room an academic paper discussing the frequency of false allegations of sexual assault?
That broke the rules prohibiting jury members from accessing outside material relevant to the case.
Yet the significance of this extraordinary event, which led to the mistrial of one of Australia’s most sensational rape cases, has passed largely unnoticed.
The myth that women hardly ever lie is a central plank of the feminist myth about sexual assault which now underpins our justice system. That makes it absolutely vital for the movement to maintain the fallacy that false allegations are statistically extremely rare.
Boy, have they done a great job in promoting that mistruth.
The mantra that false allegations hardly ever happen lurks as a dangerous subtext in sexual assault cases hitting the courts in Australia.
Bruce Lehrmann’s lawyers are preparing for next month’s defamation battle against Network 10, Lisa Wilkinson, and the ABC over their coverage of last year’s criminal case.
But The Guardian newspaper is determined, running a headline claiming Network 10 lawyers will “seek to use evidence of rarity of false rape complaints.”
But what about that evidence?
Well, it’s not hard to guess what Network 10 experts would trot out. Five percent of rape allegations are found to be false, they claimed. That’s the party line and you’ll find it promoted everywhere.“Guys, you can stop worrying about false rape allegations. They’re extremely rare,” said the ABC’s Hack program, pitched at young people.The Sydney Morning Herald recently pronounced that we do not have a major problem with men being falsely accused of sexual assault, claiming “statistics show false complaints of sexual assault are incredibly rare—a 2016 meta-analysis of seven studies of rape allegations in four Western countries put confirmed false police reports at 5 percent.”They’re all singing from the same songbook, but that’s just been shot full of holes.
Let’s Test That 5 Percent Claim
Finally, that famous meta-analysis has been subjected to proper scrutiny—and the data actually reveals false allegations are far less rare than is commonly claimed.
This is all courtesy of two Australian researchers, Tom Nankivell and John Papadimitriou, who have expertise in statistical analysis and public policy, and more than three decades of experience each as researchers and policy analysts with various government agencies.They conducted a review (pdf), titled “True or false, or somewhere between?” in which they analysed the methods and data reported in often-cited statistical surveys of the prevalence of false allegations, undertaken in various countries.
This research was recently highlighted by Oxford criminology researcher, Ros Burnett, who described the Nankivell/Papadimitriou review as “an important and overdue study,” commending the authors for bringing “an empirical approach and unrhetorical tone to the discussion.”Ms. Burnett’s discussion of the review, published last month in The Justice Gap, shows that the Ferguson and Malouff meta-analysis on the statistical studies that came up with the much-promoted 5 percent false allegation rate, misused policing definitions and categories to skew their results.
In effect, the surveys cherry-picked the lowest possible rate, selectively ignoring whole categories of cases likely to include false allegations.
Get this … in counting up false allegations, the studies that Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Malouff re-analysed only included cases where the complainant admitted the allegation was false, or where police found strong evidential grounds to assume she (or he) had made it up or had been mistaken.That meant excluding all cases where there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, where the complainant withdrew the allegation, or where the accused was tried and acquitted.
None of these cases were included under false allegations!
In addition, at least one of the studies included basic mathematical errors while others relied on very limited data.
With this highly dubious culling of the data, it is no wonder that they come up with such a low rate of false allegations.
Mr. Nankivell and Mr. Papadimitriou laboriously re-examined the original data to include estimates of possible false allegations in these excluded categories.
They concluded that “even with reasonably modest assumptions about the actual level of false allegations in other categories, the prevalence rate for the studies sample would easily exceed 10 percent and could approach 15 percent.”Note this is the conclusion from two very conservative, quantitative researchers.
The Narrative Sidelines True Victims
Given what we now know, what’s the bet the real rate is actually far higher?According to a recent YouGov survey, 19 percent of Australians know someone personally who was a victim of a false accusation of sexual abuse or rape.
Yet the Nankivell/Papadimitriou report is vital information, so necessary for putting the record straight about this critical statistic which is being used to shut down debate on false allegations and undermine the chances of a fair hearing for accused men.In her article examining this research, Ros Burnett discusses her own work for over a decade as a criminologist looking at wrongful allegations—she’s the editor of an excellent book, “Wrongful Accusations of Sexual and Child Abuse.”
Mr. Burnett describes the hundreds of cases she has encountered where individuals have been found to be falsely accused and her frustration when such cases are dismissed as “extremely” or “vanishingly” rare. She has been personally accused of “being an apologist for rapists.”
That’s the climate we live in, where misinformation is cooked up to promote the women-don’t-lie narrative and denigrate anyone with the courage to tell the truth about what’s really going on.
Mr. Nankivell and Mr. Papadimitriou rightly make the point that “there is no credible evidence that women routinely fabricate sexual assault claims” and that “the majority of sexual assault reports are true.”
But what also muddies the waters is the massive expansion of the type of behaviour now classified as sexual assault.
There’s a steady stream of cases now finding their way into court which involve young couples, where a girl may suddenly decide that she hadn’t given consent on one occasion after having intercourse when she was half asleep, or pretty drunk, even though they might have done this dozens of times before.
It makes no sense.Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.Bettina ArndtAuthor