Okay so this has been passed around Tumblr as proof that only 0.6% of rape allegations are false. (The report mentioned in the article is here.)


In the period of the review, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 35 for falsely accusing someone for rape. 35 is, in fact, 0.6% of 5,651. (The domestic violence numbers were starker: 111,891 prosecutions for DV and 6 for falsely accusing someone of DV, which is a percentage so small my calculator writes it in scientific notation.)

Obviously, being prosecuted for something and actually doing that thing are not the same thing. For instance, someone might retract an actually true accusation of domestic violence because they entered the honeymoon phase of an abusive relationship, and that would be classified as perverting the course of justice. On the other hand, someone might falsely accuse someone else of rape and end up sending that person to prison, and that would not be classified as perverting the course of justice.

In short, this data is completely consistent with the “women lie about rape all the time and the justice system believes them” theory. I mean. That’s a wrong theory, obviously. (18% of women and 6% of men in the US are raped over the course of their lifetime, according to anonymous surveys they have no reason to lie on; in order for a substantial number of rape accusations to be false you’d have to assume a ludicrously high rate of non-reporting.) It’s just that it isn’t disproven by this set of data.

It is very hard to precisely measure the exact number of false accusations of rape, because you end up stumbling on issues like “what counts as a false accusation?” The FBI stats count unfounded rape allegations, which in some jurisdictions might mean “the victim didn’t fight hard enough” or “the victim and the rapist had fucked before.” A lot of studies use police assessments of whether the accusation was false, which has… pretty much the same problem as “unfounded.” Lisak, who is my favorite person in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE to the point that occasionally I realize I am not Lisak and then feel like crying, classified as false 5.9% of rape accusations at one particular university, but that is hardly particularly good evidence for the non-university justice system.

So! We don’t actually know how many false rape accusations there are. Stop saying that we know. That is all.