Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University
- Of the sexual assault cases studied from the Los Angeles Police Department, 4.5% appeared to be false reports.
- Complaint recantation was the strongest predictor.
- Seriousness of the incident and credibility of the victim were strong factors for an unfounded decision (falling into neither the false report, baseless report, or true report categories).
In the article, “Unfounding Sexual Assault: Examining the Decision to Unfound and Identifying False Reports,” Spohn and her co-authors study the prevalence of false rape reports as the numerical estimates of false reports are understudied but vary widely. The researchers used a mix methods study to collect their data, using both quantitative and qualitative data from sexual assault cases from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) as well as interviews with LAPD officers. The researchers defined false reports as reports that were deliberately fabricated by the victim, and baseless reports as reports that do not meet the legal definition of rape, but the victim did not deliberately lie about being raped. The false report category also contained reports where the complaint was recanted (although authors noted that just because a claim was recanted does not mean the assault didn’t happen) as well as reports that were fabricated. The baseless report category included cases where any definitive information was unclear (e.g. assaults occurring under the influence of alcohol or drugs without any physical evidence). The results estimate the false reports of sexual assault at the LAPD was approximately 4.5%. The researchers also found complaint recantation was the strongest predictor.Seriousness of the incident and credibility of the victim were also strong factors for an unfounded decision (falling into neither the false report, baseless report, or true report categories).