How common are false rape reports?

It is perhaps one of the most dangerous phrases Donald Trump has ever said. Not because he's wrong. He is undoubtedly, but these are many of the US President's sentences. Many sentences inspire his electorate, but leave the rest of his audience in doubt. This sentence is different. He is wrong and caught beyond the hard core of his followers.

The phrase goes like this: "It's a scary time for young men in America."

Trump yelled this sentence out a few days ago, on the green lawn of the White House, against the crack of a helicopter. That sentence was Trump's comment on the Brett Kavanaugh hearing. Bad times, the sentence continues, when one is found guilty of something that one is not at all guilty of. You can be someone who has been perfect all your life, says Trump. And then someone comes along and accuses you of something. And then you're away from the window. Automatically.

The fear is great - and unfounded

The fear of false accusations, it is old and big, and it appears almost without exception whenever a famous man is accused of sexual violence. What is new, however, is the social climate that this fear encounters in the debate about Brett Kavanaugh. It is the first year of the "Me Too" movement. And the fear of false accusations fits into the battered self-image of men who see themselves under general suspicion. Men who fear a world in which harmless flirtations are turned into alleged assaults. Men who are afraid of being pushed into the Kafkaesque abyss by a feminist mob: someone must have slandered the man because he was arrested one morning without doing anything bad.

Cristiano Ronaldo, the other much-discussed case these days, denies the rape charge and accuses the woman of going public with her allegations in order to gain attention at his expense.

When women accuse men of sexual violence, there is a social reflex. Instead of initially believing the allegations, reasons and motives are immediately sought as to why they could be wrong: What if the sex was consensual, but the woman regrets it the next day and therefore makes it a rape? What if the woman was betrayed or abandoned by her partner and tried to rape him out of revenge? What if she's just looking for attention?

The fact that the statements made by women are so often questioned is due to a powerful myth surrounding the false accusation. And which is overdue to deconstruct.

If you look at scientific studies and articles on the subject of rape and law enforcement, you will quickly notice how distorted social perception is. Depending on the study, country and political worldview of the authors, the proportion of false accusations in actual reported rapes varies between two and eight percent. The Federal Association of Women's Advice Centers and Women's Emergency Hotlines sets the proportion of false accusations in Germany at three percent and cites a Europe-wide study on the prosecution of rape.

It is important to emphasize that this is only about the attacks actually reported. By far the largest proportion of rapes are not even reported. The number of unreported cases is high. A study commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth from 2004 indicates that the police are not called in in 85.7% of cases of sexual violence.

The police crime statistics counted 11,282 recorded cases of rape or sexual assault and 11,444 victims in Germany in 2017. Seven percent of them are men. Even if one ignores the fact that the real number of rapes is significantly higher, it can be said that men are more likely to be a victim of rape themselves than to be falsely accused of being rape.