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Beyond Duke: About Half Of All Rape Allegations Are False

The false allegations of rape that damaged the lives of 46 members of the Duke Lacrosse Team, nearly sent three to prison for thirty years each, and cost families many millions of dollars in legal fees was not a one-of-a-kind aberration of justice. Other infamous cases involving well-known individuals such as Kobe Bryant1, John Fund2, and CNN’s Tucker Carlson3 provide additional public evidence that false rape allegations are a major public problem – one where the perpetrator is rarely punished.

While researchers and prosecutors do not agree on the percentage of false allegations, the consensus is that approximately 40% to 50% of charges are clearly false. This number does not include unresolved allegations held “in limbo” where evidence is too weak to try the case even under shield laws, relaxed rules, and comparatively weak evidentiary standards applied to rape cases:

  • A survey of all the forcible rape complaints during a three-year period at two large Midwestern state universities found that 50 percent of the accusations were false.4
  • In a nine-year study of all resolved rape cases in a Midwestern U.S. city of 70,000, the accusers recanted their charges 41 percent of the time. The 41 percent figure does not include the other accusations that the police department recorded as unfounded, for which there was insufficient evidence to establish the assault.5
  • According to a report of the Defense Department Inspector General released in 2005, approximately 73% of women and 72% of men at the military service academies believe that false accusations of sexual assault are a problem.6
  • Linda Fairstein, former head of the New York County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, noted, “There are about 4,000 reports of rape each year in Manhattan. Of these, about half simply did not happen. ... It’s my job to bring justice to the man who has been falsely accused by a woman who has a grudge against him, just as it’s my job to prosecute the real thing.”7 (See correction at http://www.mediaradar.org/alert20070507.php)

The culture of false allegations of violence bears unacceptably high costs. Families and innocent lives are destroyed by our wasted tax dollars, while real cases go ignored or unprosecuted. Judges and juries are fooled and make bad decisions.

Every American who believes in justice has an important task to do this week:

  1. Telephone your representative in Congress and ask if he or she has released a statement about the Duke Lacrosse case. You can find your representative's phone number by going to http://www.house.gov and entering your zip code, or by calling 202-224-3121.
  2. If the answer is “yes,” then have them send you the statement. Forward your representative's name and statement to
  3. If the answer is “no”, then encourage your representative to take this issue seriously and request a statement regarding the case be released.
  4. You may also wish to contact your representative in your State Legislature and make the same request.



1 Kobe Bryant, Rape Shield Laws, and the False Accusations Problem; http://www.hisside.com/3_21_04.htm

3 Tucker Carlson and False Rape Allegations; http://www.equityfeminism.com/archives/years/2003/000062.html

4 Kanin, Eugene J., Ph.D. "False Rape Allegations." Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 23, No. 1 (1994), pp 81-92.; http://www.anandaanswers.com/pages/naaFalse.html

5 Ibid., (4)

6 Sex, Lies, and Rape, Center For Military Readiness; http://www.cmrlink.org/social.asp?DocID=276

7 Fairstein L. Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape. William Morrow & Company, 1993. (See correction at http://www.mediaradar.org/alert20070507.php)

Date of RADAR Release: April 23, 2007

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R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://www.mediaradar.org