It is a myth that women falsely report rape

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While otherwise lauding federal legislation to improve campus response to sexual assault, the Aug. 2 editorial “College Sex Assaults: Senators Offer a Good Proposal, With One Caveat” raises the possibility that campus surveys would generate false accusations from “embittered” individuals. It is a myth that women falsely report rape. Perpetuating that myth in the context of addressing what the editorial describes as an “intolerable culture” that tolerates sexual assault is unacceptable.

There is no empirical evidence demonstrating that women make false accusations. A well-regarded analysis by David Lisak shows that such accusations are rare. The problem we have on college campuses is that sexual assault is pervasive and that victims are deterred from reporting in large part because of the skepticism and poor treatment they receive from campus officials and law enforcement. Results from processing of rape kit backlogs support research that shows that repeat offenders commit most sexual assaults.

Considering that most offenders are never held accountable for their behavior, it is important for college communities to be educated about the prevalence and nature of sexual assault and to adopt procedures and practices on their campuses that treat victims well, encourage reports and do not perpetuate the misconception that victims lie.

Managing Attorney
Women’s Law Project


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