Understanding False Allegations of Sexual Assault

  • William T. O’Donohue


This chapter explores several issues related to false allegations of sexual assault. The definition of a false allegation varies and it is not clear if the field has done research of sufficient quality to accurately determine the rates of false allegations. Moreover, although several issues have proposed pathways to false allegations of sexual assault, more research is needed to determine the extent to which these pathways occur in actual cases. This chapter also deals with the logic of the use of false allegation rates to determine if a particular allegation is true and suggests a much more nuanced question, that is, What are the rates of false allegations (and true and undetermined cases), judged by what evidentiary standard (e.g., preponderance of evidence, clear and convincing evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, etc.), by what operational definitions of false (e.g., recantations, medical evidence), in what population, with what other relevant characteristics (e.g., mental health diagnoses, past history of lying) with what sampling limitations (e.g., nonrandom convenience sample), made against whom (ex-lover, stranger, current partner), during what time period (e.g., 1960–1965), in what stage of the forensic process (e.g., court trial), with what interrater-reliability, with what possible researcher bias or general error rate?


False allegations Rates Pathways Rape Lying Mental disorders 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • William T. O’Donohue
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NevadaRenoUSA

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