False Rape Allegations: A Victim Service Worker’s Thoughts

[CN=sexualized violence; victim-blaming; general awfulness]

Let me tell you why the “yeah, but why  now?” or “but false allegations!” or “a friend of a friend was falsely accused!” hold no water with me.

It’s not the statistics–fewer than 1 in 10 (more like 3%) of sexual assaults are ever reported to the police. Of those 3 in 100, 2-8% are found to be false (which is problematic in and of itself but that’s a post for another day). Which is to say, the same percentage as any other serious crime–robbery, murder, etc–but with significantly lower reporting rates (47% of robberies are reported; 40% of physical assaults are reported). So 2-8% of 3% of all sexual assaults are found to be false–with inconsistent and sometimes downright neglectful processes to determine which reports reflect a crime happening. That is a tiny number. That is a number so small it’s hard to conceptualize.

According to the YWCA, 460,000 sexual assaults occur in Canada each year. 3.3% of those are reported–about 15,000. So 2-8% of that is 300-1200 “false accusations” a year.

Out of 1000 sexual assaults that occur, only three perpetrators will ever face a single day in jail. That is, out of the 460,000 sexual assaults that will occur this year, 1380 perpetrators will spend a single day in jail.

And let me be very clear, a “false accusation” is one in which the police decided, due to lack of evidence (which most sexual assaults have), the victim recanting (which is very common as the process is traumatic as fuck) or other things that the accused is not guilty and that the allegations were invented. This is NOT innocent men going to jail. Let us be very, very clear on this.

Let’s also remind ourselves that men are more likely to be sexually assaulted than to be falsely accused of assaulting someone.

Let that sink in for a moment if you will.


I am constantly hearing from the “man-o-sphere” (lol) that women are just lying all over the place, impugning good men (note–many of the men in the man-o-sphere both say that rape doesn’t exist, that false accusations are rampant, and that rape should be legal, so logic is not their strong point, nor is their definition of “good” uh, reasonable) for…?

Anyway, it is not the statistics (which are very compelling) that tell me that false accusations aren’t the problem a certain type of bro claims them to be. It is the countless hours (hundreds? thousands?) I have spent with survivors. It is the woman who tells no one for thirty years because she fears being simultaneously disbelieved and blamed. It is the non-binary person who has no resources designed with them in mind.

It is the countless women who have told me that reporting to the police was worse than the assault itself. The invasive questions, the lack of belief, the subtle (or overt) victim-blaming.

It is the women who have lost their communities by speaking out about a predator in their midst. The women whose own families don’t believe them. The women who lose jobs and apartments due to the post-traumatic responses they’re having; the women who lose friends, who lose custody of their children, whose sexual histories are dissected by those around them.

It is the countless women who decline to ever report to the police because they instinctively know it will be worse than doing nothing at all–that going through the trauma of reporting will almost definitely end in no charges never mind a conviction.

It’s the fifty plus women who have courageously come forward and Bill Cosby’s own admission that he got drugs explicitly to make women have sex with him and yet people are still calling them liars and gold-diggers.

It’s the video Jian Ghomeshi showed his bosses, a video of him committing a crime, and then a dozen women came forward and still men, so-called “good men” were questioning their motives, calling them liars. Wondering about the timing.

It is the fact that most perpetrators are serial perpetrators, who have crafted their skills to avoid detection and pray on the most vulnerable, marginalized folks, least likely to be believed.

It’s the 31% of men studied who would rape a woman if they knew they’d face no consequences–and the drop by half if the word “rape” is actually used in the question.

Anecdotally (and supported by the above study), the men who assault the women I’ve worked with for years do not consider themselves rapists. Maybe they were a bit pushy. Maybe she just misunderstood. How drunk is too drunk, anyway? Because, you see, they’re a good guy. And rapists are bad guys. Ergo, they can’t be a rapist, despite forcing someone to have sex with them, or having sex with them while the other person was so intoxicated they couldn’t give consent. (And let me be clear, I am mirroring their language, forced sex is sexual assault. Full stop.)

The truth is that we are given such poor consent education, and men especially are taught that sex is a predator-prey relationship. That their job is to see how far they can push and then push a little bit further. That a lot of the sex that will never be called sexual assault is thought of as by women and other survivors as “sex I didn’t want to have.” Because that’s less scary, there’s less weight, and fewer potential social consequences.

It’s the fact that reporting a sexual assault with witnesses and video doesn’t guarantee belief never mind a conviction. So reporting a sexual assault that occurred in a room with only two people (the vast majority of all sexual assaults)? Most survivors are never going to play those odds.

So why would we think someone who hadn’t experienced the devastation of sexual assault would open themselves up to the ostracism, the judgment, the disbelief, the slut-shaming, and everything else that comes along?

Why is it easier for a certain kind of man to believe that women are lying bitches than that their friend did something bad–or that they did something bad? Why do we live in a world where 1 in 3-4 women will experience sexual assault in her life time, 1 in 3 men would sexually assault a woman if they knew they would face no consequences (as the majority of perpetrators do), and false accusations are exceptionally rare, and yet it is still easier to buy into harmful stereotypes of women as liars, hysterics, vixens, than to accept that people we know and love do bad things. That people whose work we respect do bad things.

We have an epidemic of rape and yet, if you ask too many people, no rapists.


Note: I am a strict moderator to start with, I will accept no victim-blaming, devil’s advocating bullshit here and you should be ashamed of yourself for trying.



One thought on “False Rape Allegations: A Victim Service Worker’s Thoughts

  1. Actually I don’t like this post. I don’t like it at all. But there’s no way to Agree with clicking “like”. In a non-patriarchal society ( can we even imagine one?), a woman’s word would be enough. Penalties would be extreme. Rape of a child would be the most heinous crime imaginable, and the penalty appropriate.

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