Whenever a false rape allegation case makes the news, a number of people rush to defend the women (and occasionally men) who lied about the assault. These people will quote statistics about the “rarity” of false allegations, mention the difficulty of reporting sex offenses, and repeatedly remind others that some false accusers suffer from mental issues.
These people do this to obscure a basic truth about false allegations: they are incredibly believable.
Let us take the recent case of Jemma Beale. Beale, who is a lesbian, claimed that 15 different men sexually assaulted or raped her over the course of three years. She made numerous complaints to the polices, often giving names of the men she accused:
Jemma Beale, 25, twice told juries Mahan Cassim raped her after giving her a lift home in November 2010.
Beale said she was a lesbian with ‘no desire’ to have sex with men and Mr Cassim was jailed for seven years following a retrial at Isleworth Crown Court in January 2012.
Beale then told police she was groped by stranger Noam Shazad in a pub in July 2011 and he then took part in a gang rape attack involving ‘sexual violence of a most serious kind’.
Mr Shazad skipped bail and fled the country after being charged with sexual assault, the court heard.
Beale then made two bogus complaints against six other men in 2013, Southwark Crown Court was told.
She claimed two strangers sexually assaulted her close to her home in Ashford, Middlesex, before she was put through another gang rape attack by four other men two months later.
Two of those identified by Beale as being involved in the last attack were arrested and interviewed in connection with the assault but never charged, jurors heard.
Mahad Cassim served two years and nine months of the seven year sentence he received before his exoneration. Police wasted thousands of pounds and numerous hours investigating each of Beale’s claims. Ironically, those diligent investigations led to the discovery of Beale’s lies:
Detectives from the Metropolitan Police’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command launched an investigation into Beale in December 2013 after they learned of a claim by one of Beale’s former girlfriends that a man, Mahad Cassim, had been wrongly jailed after Beale had lied she’d been raped by him in November 2010.
The information came to light when officers were investigating a separate allegation by Beale, where she claimed to have been raped by a number of men, including two men known to her, during an incident in Feltham, in November 2013.
With concerns over Beale’s account, officers carried out a review of four investigations into allegations of rape and sexual assault made by Beale between 2010 and 2013.
To put this in context, let us hear from the prosecutors in Beale’s case:
John Price, QC, prosecuting, said: ‘Ms Beale maintains that in a period of around three years, on four different and wholly unconnected occasions, one of which involved two attacks and two of which – a year apart – involved the same unknown man, she has been seriously sexually assaulted by six men and raped by nine – all bar one of whom on the day of the alleged incident were strangers to her.
‘The prosecution ask rhetorically, is this in itself not inherently improbable?’
One would think that police would note that this woman made numerous rape claims in such a short period. While some sexual violence victims experience multiple assaults, the frequency of Beale’s claims seems improbable at best. This begs the question of why police did not notice this before receiving the tip that Beale lied? Surely her prior claims would appear in the police report database. Surely some of those who investigated previous cases would work on the new ones. Did they not find it odd that this woman appeared to draw rapists to her?
Yet, as big of an issue that presents, the larger problem remains that the police and a jury found her claims credible and believable. So when someone professes the rarity of false allegations, one must always consider it with regards to how believable such false allegations sound.
The reality is that false rape charges account for a very small percentage of all rape charges, and that number itself is often considered unreliable due to bias.
Yet she goes on to write:
Despite the idea that falsified rape charges are prevalent, there is very little statistical evidence to support the claim of common fraudulent accusations.
and then contradicts that point:
Getting straightforward evidence pointing toward a single number is difficult. Given that many of the studies done on false rapes have employed subjective research methods or failed to base data off of actual investigations, finding accurate numbers includes wading through the outliers.
Police reports prove largely useless as they can only count instances in which the accused did not face charges, the court withdrew or tossed out the charges, or an appeals court overturned a conviction.
Those cases, while troubling, do not represent the actual concern. The actual concern points to cases like the one against Mahad Cassim. Police investigated him. The court tried him. A jury convicted him. All of this occurred based solely on Beale’s claims.
So when Krachenfels states:
Even though there isn’t statistical evidence to substantiate the idea of widespread false rape charges, some people still believe it’s a very prominent problem. We have an automatic attitude of disbelief toward rape victims that directly affects investigations and trials.
Beale’s case demonstrates why so many people disbelieve women’s claims. We see examples like Beale’s where an innocent man went to jail for something that never happened. Worse, the only reason the court released him stemmed from a separate investigation, not Cassim’s claims to innocence. Had Beale’s ex-girlfriend not reported to the police, Cassim would remain in jail until the end of his sentence.
None of the studies or research showing low rates of false allegations factor that in largely because they cannot. The researchers do not possess that information, and never will as long as the accused remains jailed. How many cases like Cassim’s make up the numerous rape convictions per year?
We do not know.
That is frightening, not only because it means that dozens of innocent men face imprisonment for crimes that never happened, but also because we would hope that our investigators would catch lies like these before they reached a court.
Yet due to our social desire to punish rapists, contrary to what feminists will claim, our legal system goes out of its way to mitigate discrepancies in victim testimony. The less credible the person sounds typically does not affect the investigation. Only when numerous elements fail to match or make no sense do police drop the charges or prosecutors withdraw the case. Once a conviction happens, however, the innocent man has little recourse. Even if the accuser admits she lied, that man may remain in jail as courts are reluctant to overturn cases.
None of this means that no women experience real sexual violence. None of this means that no actual victims give conflicting or contradictory statements. The issue is that we have little means of discerning the truth in these cases outside of questioning the veracity of the accuser’s claims. If we harbor a bias in favor of women who claim rape, it makes it much easier for people like Beale to send innocent men to jail.
The truth is that we have no idea how frequently false allegations of rape occur. We have few means of beginning to determine that, and most of those only work in limited cases. For example, nothing other looking at all of Beale’s cases would have exonerated Cassim, and that would only happen if a credible witness tipped off the police. Had it remained Cassim professing his innocence, the court would uphold his conviction.
It is imperative that we look at cases like Beale’s to understand just how convincingly some women lie. We cannot merely excuse her actions as “rare” when for three years she managed to con police into taking her claims seriously. How many other cases happen like this, except the women have the sense not to make multiple reports?