You've probably already heard that they're exceptionally rare, comprising somewhere between two and 10 percent of rape accusations. But in a piece for Quartz, Sandra Newman explains what we know about people who make false rape accusations, which are often treated as if they're a common threat for men who haven't committed sexual assault.
According to studies on false rape accusations, Newman finds that half are lodged by someone other than the alleged victim. Oftentimes, the accusers are parents, resulting from a daughter facing an unwanted pregnancy. But even if a false accusation is made, the accused rarely face consequences—even though the idea of "personal destruction" (as in "the politics of personal destruction") looms large in the popular imagination about people accused of rape.
Instead, Newman lays out what we do know about false rape accusations, including their motivations. It's a fascinating read about a sliver of social science that's rarely discussed on empirical terms.
She concludes, too:
When a woman says she’s been brutally raped by seven men at a public party on a bed of broken glass, as the UVA accuser did, and when that woman has a history of strange lies, as the UVA accuser also did, there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical. But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true. This is not because of any political dictum like “Believe women.” It’s because this story looks exactly like tens of thousands of date rapes that happen every year, and nothing at all like a false rape accusation.