Sexual Assault In-Service Training for Maryland Law Enforcement Officers 2005
Sexual Assault In-Service Training for Maryland Law Enforcement OfficersCourse Series • Overview of Sexual Assault • Preliminary Sexual Assault Investigation • Sexual Assault Victim Interviews: Challenges and Techniques • False Allegations and Unfounded Reports of Sexual Assault This project is supported by VAWA-2002-1107, awarded by the U. S. Department of Justice. The assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs, coordinates the activities of the program offices and bureaus. Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the United States Department of Justice.
FALSE Allegations and Unfounded Reportsof Sexual Assault
Purpose of this Training • To describe the difference between False Allegations and Unfounded Reports. • To summarize the discrepancies in reporting of false allegations. • To modify bias that can impact the investigation. • To explain how and why false allegation statistics are so high in cases of sexual assault. • To illustrate the implications of “unfounding” when other means of clearing a case should be used.
False Reports or Improper Reporting? Because of the intimate and invasive nature of sexual assaults, the investigation of such crimes can bring an entirely new set of complications and mistakes than investigations of other crimes. However, it is widely accepted that the high rate of false allegations in instances of sexual assault can largely be attributed to improper classifying or closing of difficult or dead-end cases.
Defining the Terms Unfounded Reports. On occasion, an agency will receive a complaint which is determined through investigation to be false or baseless. If the investigation shows that no offense occurred nor was attempted, the reported offense can be unfounded for UCR purposes.” (UCR Handbook, pg. 40). False Allegations. False Allegations are those known to be unequivocally false in their entirety. This term should not be used interchangeably with Unfounded Reports. While the terms “false” and “unfounded” are often used interchangeably, it must be clear that “unfounded” does not necessarily mean “false” as “false” is merely a reason for “unfounding” a report.
False vs. Unfounded? Unfounding a case should not be used as an alternative to closing or otherwise clearing a case. Many cases are declared unfounded for a variety of reasons other than a thorough investigation determining that the allegations are unequivocally false. Victim gives inconsistent or untrue facts Delayed reporting Lack of visible physical injury Relationship between victim or suspect Recall of additional facts Victim is vague about details of the assault Victim fails a polygraph Case is difficult to investigate
“Creating” an Unfounded Case Instances of police actually creating unfounded cases out of legitimate allegations are not uncommon and can further inflate the rate of false reports.
The Vicious Cycle of Bias and Reporting • 1. Ages old misconceptions: • Does rape really occur as often as they say? • Most/many rape allegations are false and motivated by malice or revenge 5. The improper classification of the case becomes part of official crime statistics and will incorrectly feed the myths and misconceptions of rape and the rape victim. 2. Bias on the part of the investigating officer that manifests in disbelief or even hostility during the interview/investigation. 4. The officer, giving in to his own bias and fueled by perceived untruths or evasiveness, may “unfound” the case. 3. The victim, sensing negativity or mistrust, may change, embellish, appear confused, or recant her story altogether.
Consequences of improperly unfounding cases • For police agencies, can lead to public scrutiny and pressure • For victims, can produce feelings of betrayal and negative effects on recovery • For public, creates a false sense of reality and deters future victims from reporting • For society, fuels the myth of false allegations
Frequency of False Reporting Statistics on false reporting vary so widely (anywhere from 2-50%) that it is virtually impossible to make an accurate statement on how frequently it occurs. However, since 1991, the FBI has been saying that the statistic on false reporting is a standard 8-12% across the country. The agency defines a report as being false when a thorough investigation determines that no actual offense has occurred.
Why do People Make False Reports? As in any crime, there are instances of false allegations. Generally, people who make false claims of having been assaulted, do so for the following reasons: • Psychological or emotional problems • Attention seeking • Delusional • Self protection • Hiding an affair or explaining a pregnancy • Alibi • Parental pressure • Malice • Financial reasons
False Allegation Indicators • The victim-offender relationship • Force and Resistance • Nature of the sexual Acts • Recollection of Details • Physical Injury • Evidence • Personal and Lifestyle considerations
Questions… • How false does an allegation have to be? • How do you address inconsistent or untrue statements? Is the case dead?
Corrective Measures • Assume all allegations are true, approaching each victim with compassion and openness. 2. Stick to the investigation guidelines! 3. Take a teamwork approach, incorporating medical personnel, victims’ advocates, prosecutors into the investigation 4. Take steps to reduce the likelihood of inconsistent or untrue statements.
A Victim’s Story 17-year-old Cheryl attended a party with some friends against the wishes of her parents. She was dressed to kill in a tight strapless dress. At the party, she tried marijuana for the first time and drank alcohol. When she was leaving the party, a young man she knew to be a friend offered to drive her home. When Cheryl arrived home, she told her parents that she had been raped. They immediately took her to the police station.
A Victim’s Story At the station, the officers questioned Cheryl in front of her parents. Because she had gone to the party without their knowledge and had been using illegal substances, she lied about the attack. She told the police that she had been at the movies with friends and did not know her attacker. She was visibly shaken and showed many outward signs of having recently been assaulted, the police took her story at face value. When the medical exam showed traces of drugs and alcohol in Cheryl’s system, the police took a very different view of the story. She admitted that she had lied about the circumstances but insisted she was telling the truth about the attack.
What Will Happen Next? • The investigating officer will excuse Cheryl’s parents and approach Cheryl in a nonjudgmental way, imploring her to tell the true story. • The investigating officer will chastise Cheryl for lying to them and wasting their time then he will threaten to charge her with filing a false report. • The investigating officer will gather more information from Cheryl in a half-hearted attempt to at least clear the case.
True or False • Most victims who falsely report sexual assaults do so with malicious intent. • If the victim refuses to help in the investigation or changes her story, she is most likely lying about the attack. • “Real” rape victims have distinctive, predictable reactions to their assault. 4. Unfounding a case is acceptable when the victim recants her story or refuses to follow through with the investigation. 5. The occurrence of false allegations of sexual assaults is much higher than for other crimes.
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault1517 Governor Ritchie Highway, Suite 207Arnold, Maryland 21012410-974-4507 (phone)410-757-4770 (fax)www.mcasa.org (web)firstname.lastname@example.org(email)