1302887158328Something that never fails to annoy me is the ever-insistent claim that, while rape is bad, false rape claims are an epidemic level and men are far more victimized by false rape claims than a woman is by an actual rape. But the fact of the matter is that false rape claims make up the vast minority of total rape claims. While there are women who do claim to be raped when no rape has actually occurred, putting these occurrences at the forefront of the issue of rape is completely missing the point.

Actual false rape allegation statistics are difficult to pin down. Some stats include claims that are “unfounded”. Meaning that a rape could have definitely occurred, but there isn’t enough evidence to support this. Unfounded claims can be a result of many different factors. If a girl is raped and goes to the police days later, with no physical evidence, it is difficult to prove that non-consensual sex actually took place. Sometimes rape cases come down to one person’s word against another. This doesn’t mean that someone is lying about being raped. It just means that there isn’t enough evidence to continue with the case.

But in addition to the “unfounded” statistics, there’s also the women who recant their stories, not because they lied, but because their cases were mishandled. They were bullied, intimidated and harassed by police, and told to “admit” to lying or face charges for filing a false police report. Sometimes the societal structure that insists that women lie about being sexually assaulted becomes a way to force women into falling in line with this ideal.

Statistics on false rape allegations range from 2% to 50%, depending on who you’re listening to. People who want to believe that women are liars and eager to callously ruin men’s lives are ready to claim that half, or just under half, of all rape claims are false. However, more accurate statistics show that false rape claims are nowhere near as high as that. With the majority of rapes not being reported at all, it makes little sense that a woman who has never reported a rape has a higher chance of actually being raped than a woman who has gone to the authorities.

Women have lied about rape. Crystal Mangum (pictured) famously accused three Duke Lacrosse players of raping her at a house party, but her story eventually fell apart and never made it to trial. Mangum’s mental health issues and drug abuse formed a perfect storm that turned her baseless allegations into a national media outcry. But while this case was one of the very rare instances were rape claims are completely unsubstantiated, some held this up as just another example of the heinous crimes that women were inflicting on defenseless men.

The idea that a man is hurt more by a false rape allegation than a woman is by an actual rape is another example of completely missing the point. Rape is a multifaceted event that affects people emotionally, mentally, physically and socially. A false rape allegation that never sees the inside of a courtroom can be socially damaging, but not always. There are so many examples of the media and individuals expressing their sympathy for rapists. There is also a lot of backlash against victims for tattling on the sweet boy(s) who raped them.

When it comes to rape accusations, the focus of the conversation should not be in the minority of those who purposely lie about being raped. Acting as if women have a natural inclination to lie about sexual assault is only pushing more real victims into silence for fear of not being believed. Once the problem of victim blaming, inadequate treatment of victims by the police and authorities, and the overall culture that claims women lie about rape and that rape isn’t such a big deal to begin with, is taken care of. Then let’s work on the smaller problem of false accusations. Until then, let’s stay focused on the big picture.