The woman, who claimed she had no memory of the event, received strong support from feminist activists on campus and was vilified as a liar on men’s rights websites.
Ultimately, the grand jury cleared the man, concluding that while parties were drunk, the woman was not incapacitated—she walked away unassisted and bought a burrito moments after the encounter—and was a willing participant.
More than 40 percent of the reports evaluated in Lisak’s study (excluding the ones for which there was not enough information to classify them) did result in disciplinary or criminal charges. Lisak told me that the vast majority of these complaints did not proceed due to insufficient evidence, often because the complainant had stopped cooperating with investigators.
A similar pattern can be found in a recent study often cited as evidence of the rarity of false accusations: a 2010 paper by psychologist David Lisak, which examined all 136 sexual assault reports made on a northeastern university campus over a 10-year period.
For 19 of these cases, the files did not contain enough information to evaluate the outcome.
five years ago, official data on what law enforcement terms “unfounded” rape reports (that is, ones in which the police determine that no crime occurred) yield conflicting numbers, depending on local policies and procedures—averaging 8 percent to 10 percent of all reported rapes.
Yet the truth is even knottier than these statistics suggest. ” depends largely on how false allegations are defined.
However, in challenging what author and law professor Susan Estrich has called “the myth of the lying woman,” feminists have been creating their own counter-myth: that of the woman who never lies.
More than a quarter-century ago, feminist legal theorist Catharine Mac Kinnon wrote that “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men”; today, Jessica Valenti urges us to “believe victims en masse,” because only then will we recognize the true prevalence of sexual assault.
By 2013, an effort to provide better training and encourage full investigation of all complaints reduced that rate to less than 2 percent.
On the other hand, “unfounded” statistics do not capture all false allegations—only cases rejected at the earliest stage (correctly or not) because of what investigators believe to be strong proof that no crime was committed.
Even assuming the female student genuinely believed that what happened was rape, it was still, as the investigation concluded, a wrongful accusation—but one that won’t be recorded as an “unfounded rape report” by the FBI.