Women’s groups and rape victim advocates have criticized a BBC news report which described findings in a new study into false rape allegations as “showing how common the problem is,” when — in fact — it showed only two false rape claims are prosecuted every month.
The false rape and/or domestic violence allegation report was conducted by the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service over 17 months. Described as “trailblazing research,” the overwhelming conclusion of investigators was that actual false allegations of rape and domestic violence are “very rare.”
However, women’s and rape victim support groups say a BBC Newsbeat story exaggerates the occurrence of false rape allegations and flies in the face of the CPS’ report.
In addition, Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking after the publication of the report, said it showed that media and public perceptions of false reports perpetuate “dangerous myths. “
The focus of the BBC Newsbeat story which quotes one person who was falsely accused of rape is an issue of contention for End Violence Against Women and many other victim support groups. They have urged people to complain to the BBC and subsequently raised a storm of protest on Twitter.
For their part, the BBC has defended their reporting of the story.
A spokesman told Huffington Post UK the BBC, “are confident that our article accurately reflects the findings of today’s CPS report.” The public broadcaster also said that other aspects of the report were explored across their outlets.
Specifically, the BBC Newsbeat report stated: “It’s the first time details for England and Wales have been compiled, showing how common the problem is.” The report also talked about the “devastating” affects false rape allegations have on people’s lives.
Sarah Green of End Violence Against Women said:
“It is not acceptable for BBC Newsbeat reporters to look at the contents of the CPS report on false allegations and then totally disregard its findings and context in the way they have.”
Adding that the CPS report found that false allegations of rape and domestic violence were rare, Ms. Green says Newsbeat’s inclusion of the word “common” amounted to a failure of “basic journalism standards” and that the BBC should amend the article immediately.
An estimated 85,000 rapes are committed in Britain every year. Seen in that context, the CPS report itself found 5,651 prosecutions for rape took place in the period between January 2011 and May 2012, but only 35 were found to be based on false allegations,
Last month, an Independent Police Complaints Commission report found that a specialist sex crimes unit in Southwark, South London, had manipulated its record of sexual assault statistics between 2008-09 to achieve a better clear rate.
One of the men who that unit failed to prosecute for rape went on to murder his own two children.