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Unfounding Sexual Assault: Examining the Decision To Unfound and Identifying False Reports

NCJ Number
Law & Society Review Volume: 48 Issue: 1 Dated: 2014 Pages: 161-192
Date Published
March 2014
32 pages
One of the most controversialand least understoodissues in the area of sexual violence is the prevalence of false reports of rape. Estimates of the rate of false reports vary widely, which reflects differences in the way false reports are defined and in the methods that researchers use to identify them. The current study addressed this issue using a mixed methods approach that incorporated quantitative and qualitative data on sexual assault cases that were reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2008 and qualitative data from interviews with LAPD detectives assigned to investigate reports of sexual assault.
The study found that the LAPD was clearing cases as unfounded appropriately most, but not all, of the time, and the study estimated that the rate of false reports among cases reported to the LAPD was 4.5 percent. It was also found that although complainant recantation was the strongest predictor of the unfounding decision, other factors indicative of the seriousness of the incident and the credibility of the victim also played a role. These findings are interpreted using an integrated theoretical perspective that incorporates both Black's sociological theory of law and Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer's focal concerns perspective. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: March 1, 2014