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Statistics on the frequency of false reports of sexual assault

While the news media, quite correctly, will often remind the residents of Prescott Valley, Arizona, about how traumatic it is to be a victim of sexual assault, it is also traumatic to be the victim of a false accusation of rape or sexual misconduct.

Even allegations of sex crimes can ruin a person's reputation and damage their professional opportunities severely. Moreover, sex crimes often prompt an aggressive prosecution, as the general public expects prosecutors to come down hard on sex offenders. Someone who is convicted of a sex crime, rightly or wrongly, will immediately face severe penalties, including years or even decades in prison.

As is often seen, people often fall either in to the camp that those who report sex crimes should always be believed or in to the camp that they are quite likely to be lying.

The reality that it is true that it apparently takes considerable courage to come forward with allegations of this nature, as over 60 percent of sex crimes go unreported. On the other hand, the incidents of what are called false reports range from 2 to 10 percent.

Admittedly, there may be some confusion as to what is a false, as opposed to just baseless, or unsupported, report. Moreover, some police departments may classify a report as false on unreliable criteria. For instance, delayed reporting or a victim's not being able to tell her story without some inconsistencies are not grounds for dismissing a report as false.

Still, even if one assumes that only 2 out of 100 reports are demonstrably false, that means that up to 2 out of 100 people accused face the risk of criminal charges and even imprisonment on account of actions that they did not do. Given the severity of the consequences to those accused, these statistics serve to underscore the importance of having a strong criminal defense to allegations of sexual misconduct.

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