We recently explored the oft-repeated assertion that there aren't enough false rape claims to worry about. We noted that the vast majority of people are properly offended by both rape and false rape claims, and that there is no necessity to trivialize the victimization caused by one in advocating for the victims of the other.
A related, frequently repeated assertion is that false claims are extremely rare because most victims of sexual assault suffer in silence and that coming forward to report a claim is so terribly personally intrusive.
The fact that rape is underreported is a slender reed on which to rest the argument that false claims are rare. As we've recently reiterated, no one can honestly insist that only a very small percentage of the total claims made are "false" because, for most claims, we just can't tell. The fact that there is underreporting shouldn't diminish our concern about false claims.
The feelings of intense personal intrusion that prevent women from reporting rape may not be nearly so prevalent when it comes to false accusers. This is an area we've never seen discussed, but we think it deserves exploration. Numerous admitted false rape claims involve assertions made to "explain" an illicit sexual encounter or, as Amanda Hess put it, to "defend" a woman's "femininity." It seems likely that the perceived need to lie about rape overrides other considerations at the time. In addition, a fair number of false claims are lodged by women with emotional problems. Isn't it also likely that their attention-seeking needs outweigh their concerns about personal intrusion? Again, we don't know, but it seems logical. And if we're correct, it helps explain how false claims can coexist with underreporting.
In attempting to achieve a mature dialogue about these issues, we do the community of the wrongly accused no favors by insisting that the primary focus needs to be on false claims. We also need to acknowledge the evil of sexual assault and underreporting.