True or false? The contested terrain of false allegations

Sex differences Crime Australia

This paper aims to contribute to and clarify the debate around false allegations of sexual assault by providing a summary of recent literature, including consideration of the classifications and methods of defining a false allegation, whether there is a prevailing scepticism around allegations of sexual assault, and the motivations for falsifying reports.

Key messages:

  • There is ongoing speculation about the prevalence of false allegations of sexual assault, however, without consistency in definition and classification of what actually is a false allegation, accurate measurement of prevalence is difficult.
  • Assumptions are made about the truth of allegations of sexual assault at various decision-making points in the justice response. These assumptions are based on individual and societal beliefs about gender roles and sexual assault that may not accord with the actual experiences of sexual assault.
  • The perception that false allegations of sexual assault are common has negative consequences for victims of sexual assault and society more generally by perpetuating victims’ fear of being disbelieved or being blamed for the assault. This reduces the likelihood of reporting.
  • A more useful approach to considering false allegations of sexual assault is to undertake more contextual analysis of the factors that play into a label of false allegations.
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