Why do false rape claims occur? If we recognize the reasons, we can sometimes avoid them. We have closely studied the false rape phenomenon for several years and, in a very unscientific way, we've identified three general situations where false rape claims are more likely to occur. Only one of the three areas involves claims that are preventable.
I. Attention seeking. A significant percentage of false claims are lodged by women with emotional problems whose attention-seeking needs override any concerns that reporting a rape claim might be personally intrusive. Typically, these women (and sometimes girls and boys) don't mean to hurt anyone, but there are many examples where their lies end up doing just that. Once unleashed, a rape lie is impossible to control absent an embarrassing, and potentially costly, recantation. A man caught in a police investigation for one of these kinds of lies has no ability to prevent it.
II. Situations where the woman has motivation to deny sex was consensual. A perceived need to cover up an illicit sexual encounter is a primary motivation for false rape claims, and it's the one kind of "false rape claim" that is preventable. An unlikely source, feminist gadfly Amanda Marcotte, once wrote that "the idea that it's shameful to just have sex because you want to" is "the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place." Marcotte noted that "women who aren't ashamed of having sexual adventures like group sex-even ones that go bad-don't use rape accusations to cover up their choices. It's the women who are afraid they'll be called sluts if it gets out that make up these rape stories." Amanda Hess similarly talked about women who make false claims to defend their "femininity." There is much truth in what they say. Without excusing the false accuser (who, like the rapist, must be held accountable for her actions), false rape claims are largely culturally induced.**
Men and women view casual sex differently, and women feel remorse more than men following one-night stands. A study shows how common remorse is for women following one-night stands: "Overall women’s feelings were more negative than men’s [about one-night stand casual sex]. Eighty per cent of men had overall positive feelings about the experience compared to 54 per cent of women. . . . . The predominant negative feeling reported by women was regret at having been 'used'. Women were also more likely to feel that they had let themselves down and were worried about the potential damage to their reputation if other people found out. Women found the experience less sexually satisfying and, contrary to popular belief, they did not seem to view taking part in casual sex as a prelude to long-term relationships."
Similarly, last year in Ohio State University's student newspaper The Lantern, Amy Bonomi, a professor of human sexuality at OSU specializing in domestic violence and assault, said: "Women tend to feel bad after having a "random hook up," she said. Typically men are not upset by these occurrences. Bonomi attributed this situation to society's "gender double standard" that men are expected to be more sexually forward than women.
In addition, it is well to note that one of the common motives cited by experts for false rape claims is "remorse after an impulsive sexual fling . . . ." Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case, S. Taylor, K.C. Johnson at 375 (2007).
The fact that only women can get pregnant should not be discounted as the primary reason why women seem hard-wired to have greater ex post facto regret than men.
We've seen repeated examples of this sort of rape lie:
●Alcohol-fueled one night stands where the parties have no history together.
●The accuser has a husband or a boyfriend, even if they are estranged.
●The accuser doesn't want her parents or other loved ones to know she is serious about the male she's bedding -- perhaps because she is too young or the male otherwise would not be "acceptable" to them.
●Consensual group sex activities with young men spawn off-the-charts regrets. The accuser typically fears that one or more of the young men will "brag" about it. It is a recipe for false rape claims.
●Teen boy, older woman. The illicit nature of the affair sometimes results in false rape claims.
III. To gain the upper hand on someone, for revenge, money, or children.
A man caught in one of these rape lies has no ability to prevent it. Examples:
●Nasty divorces and custody disputes spawn false rape claims in order for the accuser to gain the upper hand in the dispute.
●Spurned ex-lovers sometimes use false rape claims as a tool of revenge.
●Being a school teacher, a police officer, or a cab driver. Police officers are at risk because some women charged with crimes lie about rape out of revenge or to claim that the charges were trumped up. Numerous cases involve cab drivers who are falsely accused by women seeking to avoid paying a fare. Teachers are sometimes targeted by students looking to "get back" at them.
** NOTE: The example both Ms. Marcotte and Ms. Hess use is the Hofstra false rape case, and, respectfully, that one doesn't really make the point. In that case, the accuser's boyfriend was trying to call her at the very moment she was urging four strangers to insert their penises into her. The accuser wasn't "defending her femininity" when she lied about this particular consensual romp, she was covering up for violating her boyfriend's trust in a very nasty way.