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Study: Rape allegations are rarely proven false

One of the prominent criticisms of California's Yes Means Yes law is that people, particularly women, will use the new standards to make false sexual assault allegations against others, particularly men. But a 2010 study from researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Northeastern University found these types of false allegations are uncommon. Out of 136 cases of sexual assault reported to a major Northeastern university over a 10-year period, just eight were coded as false allegations.

Jody Sieradzki at Dadaviz charted the findings for the 117 cases in which sufficient information was available:

sexual assault allegations

In a 2010 study from Massachusetts researchers, eight out of 136 cases of sexual assault reported to a Northeastern university over a 10-year period were coded as false. (Jody Sieradzki / Dadaviz)

Only 48 of the 136 analyzed cases were directed to prosecution or disciplinary action after an investigation by university officials.

About 61 cases were closed by investigators without being directed to prosecution or disciplinary action. These cases were mostly abandoned as a result of insufficient evidence, especially after a complainant stopped cooperating with investigators. It's possible, although not proven, that some of these cases could have turned out false after further investigation.

Eight of the cases were proven false after varying circumstances. In some instances, the complainants admitted to lying. In others, investigations found falsified evidence or concluded the complainant's story wasn't true.

Based on their results and previous research, the study authors conclude that the rate of false allegations is between 2 to 10 percent.

"The stereotype that false rape allegations are a common occurrence, a widely held misconception in broad swaths of society, including among police officers, has very direct and concrete consequences," the authors wrote. "It contributes to the enormous problem of underreporting by victims of rape and sexual abuse."

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