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SEEKING SUPPORT?
The Alliance has compiled a number of resources available for survivors, their friends and families, and professionals assisting survivors in New York City.

Factsheets: False Allegations of Sexual Assault vs. "Unfounded" Sexual Assaults

To accurately define a false allegation of sexual assault is quite tough because it rests with the motivation of the complainant and requires deliberate deception (yet this is not required for a charge to be baseless.) Motivation is often be difficult to determine.

Investigators need to ask themselves how false does the allegation need to be to be a false allegation? It is common to take a statement from a victim that is riddled with inconsistent or untrue statements. This should not be confused with a false allegation.

Federal reporting requirements are clear; sexual assault cases are "unfounded", if after a thorough investigation, they are determined to be false or baseless.

Common reasons some departments erroneously unfound case include:

  1. not being able to locate the victim
  2. victim is uncooperative or won't follow through with prosecution
  3. victim repeatedly changes her/his account of the rape
  4. victim recants
  5. no assailant can be identified
Many departments "unfound" cases instead of using an administrative clearance. Other departments will bury sexual assault cases by using non-criminal codes that skew their figures, i.e. investigation of person.

Some police departments will unfound cases where the offender is identified but cannot be charged or the victim refuses to cooperate, when they should actually use "exceptional clearance." When reporting procedures were reformed in several large departments including NYCPD unfounded cases dropped from 15% to 2%.

False reports of sexual assaults are relatively rare but they do happen. Individuals who make false allegations of sexual assault generally do so for one of the following reasons:

  1. They suffer from psychological problems
  2. They use the claim of rape for self-protection (against a father, husband, etc.)
  3. They are malicious
This material was provided by The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

Related Links

Resource Guide
Guide to Survivor Services
[Go to the Service Map]


The Resource Guide is a free information service from The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.

If you know of a resource for sexual assault survivors which should be included in the Guide, please tell us about it.


Michael Polenberg addresses the media and Denim Day supporters on behalf of Safe Horizon
Michael Polenberg addresses the media and Denim Day supporters on behalf of Safe Horizon