False re­ports of sex as­sault not as rare as claimed

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

The 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.

Lib­er­als 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 years ago.

Brent 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 false. Mr. Tur­vey wrote that the FBI in the 1990s pegged the fal­sity rate at 8 per­cent for rape or at­tempted rape com­plaints.

“There is 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 fraud­u­lent.”

A re­cent 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.

“It 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 Mil­i­tary Readi­ness.

“You see 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, is im­por­tant.”

Women’s ad­vo­cates say that an un­founded case doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the ac­cuser was ly­ing.

The Na­tional Sex­ual Vi­o­lence Re­source Cen­ter puts the false re­port rate at 2 per­cent to 10 per­cent.

“Re­search 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.

Three 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.

A third charge, Julie Swet­nick’s ac­cu­sa­tion of gang rape, was deemed not cred­i­ble by Repub­li­cans and wasn’t on the FBI in­ter­view list.

NBC News 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.

Ms. Ramirez and Ms. Swet­nick re­fused the com­mit­tee’s re­quests for in­ter­views, ac­cord­ing to Repub­li­can staffers.

Ms. Ford 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.

The Obama 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.

The 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.

Mrs. 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 “un­founded.”

She said the rate of un­founded com­plaints jumped from 13 per­cent in 2009 to 26 per­cent in 2016 and fell to 23 per­cent last year.

Mr. 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.

“False 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.”

Mr. 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.

Mr. Tur­vey cites 10 stud­ies that de­bunk the 2 per­cent as­ser­tion in the U.S. and abroad.

“The 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.”

Sex­ual as­sault is a broad term that en­com­passes dif­fer­ent types of pen­e­tra­tion, at­tempted pen­e­tra­tion and un­wanted touch­ing or at­tempts.

For 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.

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