Research Spotlight: Sexual Assault False Reports
National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) features article by Assistant Professor, Dana Weiser, Ph.D.
The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) recently featured an article by Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS) Assistant Professor, Dana Weiser, Ph.D., in a special issue of the NCFR sponsored journal, Family Relations. Dr. Weiser's article, titled "Confronting Myths about Sexual Assault: A Feminist Analysis of the False Report Literature" challenges sexual assault myths in hopes of improving survivor support and the criminal justice system. In addition to being featured, the article was made open access for a limited time.
"The overall goal of this research is to provide scientifically valid information about sexual assault," Dr. Weiser said. "Myths about sexual assault are widespread and endorsed by the general public as well as members of the criminal justice system."
According to Dr. Weiser, false reports only make up 2-8% of reported sexual assault cases, a false report rate which is similar to other serious crimes. Dr. Weiser says that it is important to note that only 30% of sexual assaults are reported to authorities, therefore the true rate of false reports should be considered much lower.
"Another important point for the research is that false reports typically follow a stranger assault narrative," Dr. Weiser said. "In other words, when an individual does make a false report it is rare that a specific individual is falsely accused. Rather the person will report that a stranger randomly attacked them and no alleged perpetrator can be identified."
The belief that false reports are common is unsubstantiated by scientific research. Despite these facts, sexual assault myths are still pervasive throughout the general public.
"Sexual assault myths are considered to be commonly held beliefs about sexual assault that are actually untrue," Dr. Weiser said. "These myths then erroneously shift blame from a perpetrator to the survivor of sexual violence and perpetuate a system in which sexual violence is tolerated and normalized."
Mathew Gregory, Ph.D., Texas Tech Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Administrator for Students commented on the importance of Dr. Weiser's article. As a former law enforcement officer, Dr. Gregory understands the significance of this research for campus and law enforcement practice.
"This research is timely and important because it emphasizes the need to listen before making a judgment and the necessity of conducting a thorough investigation to corroborate a claim," Dr. Gregory said.
Dr. Weiser's article was recognized for its timeliness on the national stage, but it also holds relevance for the Texas Tech community and all college campuses. Dr. Weiser believes that by challenging sexual assault myths, we will be able to better support survivors and make improvements within the criminal justice system and college campuses.