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Calling out False allegations of rape

Filed under: General — JohnBrett @ 2:22 pm Sat 21st May 2016

A new study shows how pseudo-victims’ claims differ to those of true victims.

Last week, the Irish Independent reported that a former nun named Nora Wall, who was wrongfully convicted of rape and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999, would receive over €500,000 in compensation.

Wall’s case was especially shocking, because the prosecution used a witness whom the Director of Public Prosecutions had said should not be called. Yet the prosecution went ahead and called the witness, whose fabricated tale succeeded in convicting Wall.

In one sense, Wall was fortunate. She had only served four days of her sentence, when she was released on bail. The witness admitted lying. In 2005, the Court of Criminal Appeal certified that Wall’s conviction was a miscarriage of justice, opening the way for a damages action against the state.

Wall is not the only nun to be falsely accused. Sr Domenica Ritchie is a 73-year-old Anglican nun, who won acclaim for her work in the hospice movement. She was awarded the OBE in 2006. Yet in 2013, when Savile mania was at its height, two women accused her of indecently assaulting them in Oxford in the 1970s. They did not go to the police but, as often happens, an officious third party reported their claims. Sr Domenica was arrested, but in 2014 the Crown Prosecution Service decided that there was no basis for charging her.

Why do some people make false allegations, which wreak such havoc in the lives of innocent people? Filing false vice reports, a recent Dutch study published in April this year, offers some much-needed clarity. Motives for false allegations include revenge, attention-seeking and compensation.

The authors (André De Zutter, Robert Horselenberg and Peter van Koppen) undertook a bold piece of research. They decided to commission false allegations of rape, and compare them with victims’ accounts in real cases, where men had been convicted. ‘The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool’, they say, quoting from Stephen King’s Needful Things.

They propose a new theory of fabricated rape. Their hypothesis is that pseudo-victims have to construct stories based on their own experiences and beliefs about rape. They will construct a stereotypical story that does not resemble a true rape. They will tend to rely on representations of rape in news media, which tended to be biased and often lack details. Typically, the media cover sensational and atypical rapes.

A pseudo-victim will also likely create a rapist whose conduct does not fit typical offender categories. In brief: the four typical rapist profiles are ‘opportunist, pervasively angry, sexual, and vindictive’. Typical rapist behaviours can include such things as attempts at pseudo-intimacy, or stealing from the victim. These sorts of behaviour are often absent from media reports of rape. By contrast, the proportion of rape stereotypes is typically higher in false allegations of rape.

So how do false and true allegations of rape differ? Typically the false report will provide a concise story with little details. The research used a control group (consisting of likely true allegations) and two experimental groups where participants were invited to invent a rape accusation. The study used 187 variables (specific rapist behaviours) to test the veracity of the stories it collected.

The cohort comprised 65 allegations, of which 30 were likely true and 35 likely false. Half of the false category were given three days to prepare their story, while the rest were given 30 minutes. Participants were screened for having experienced unpleasant sexual encounters: those who had were excluded from the study, as were true rape victims. The participants who were accepted were then interviewed using the same protocol as that used with an actual complainant in a Dutch police unit.

The results were both instructive and intriguing. True victims were twice as likely to give details – and give them spontaneously – than pseudo-victims. True victims described a lot of verbal interaction with their rapist, most of which fitted the rapist profiles mentioned earlier (eg, sadistic rapists were insulting). They also described a wide variety of sexual acts and positions. True victims engaged in evidence-conserving activities (such as not showering), while pseudo-victims did the opposite.

The authors conclude that four main characteristics of false allegations stand out. First, the alleged rape is always swift – almost all cases were completed in less than 15 minutes. Second, the pseudo-victim is passive, and their narrative does not include a variety of sexual acts. Third, false allegations mostly include instrumental violence, and almost no expressive violence (eg, unnecessary hurting during sex). ‘False complainants seem to be aware that it is the era of forensic evidence. Bruises and scratches without foreign DNA might put their credibility on the line.’ Finally, pseudo-victims offer a more detailed description of their attacker’s personal appearance than real ones do. For some reason, false complainants described the nose of the fabricated offender more than genuine victims.

Anything that can assist in screening out false complaints of sex crime is of great importance. No one benefits when the innocent are wrongly accused. The present problem in Britain is that police and prosecutors have been captured by the believe-the-victim mindset. Seeking out sex criminals – especially elderly ones (and sometimes even dead ones) – has become a grotesque 21st-century illustration of Parkinson’s Law – that a bureaucracy will generate enough work to keep itself ‘busy’ and to justify its continued existence.

One defence lawyer has said that 70 per cent of cases in Crown Courts now are sex cases. The CPS (65 per cent of whose workforce is female) evidently has no concept of age discrimination. It zealously prosecutes offenders ranging in age from 12 to 101. This is madness. It has nothing to do with the public interest. Britain’s prisons are overcrowded, and increasingly unsafe.

So what’s to be done? The police need to be more rigorous in their questioning of complainants. In particular, adult complainants should not be treated like tender youngsters. It is troubling to learn that in a recent case in Cirencester, which collapsed on the first day of trial, the policeman in charge was a confidant of the complainant, even interviewing her in her bedroom. Second, the CPS must drop their biased outlook, which assumes that all complainants are victims. Its Toolkit for Prosecutors on Violence Against Women and Girls Cases Involving a Vulnerable Victim is typical of this mindset. The eight-page document uses the word ‘victim’ 39 times, and ‘victims’ nine times. Both agencies need to acquire some objectivity, instead of acting as allies of our current victim culture. And they must stop being the useful tools of those who make false allegations.

Barbara Hewson is a barrister. Her views here are personal.


  1. Why do some people make false allegations? Good question with many answers, however, the problem is easily solved with harsher penalties. A woman accusing a man of sexual offenses leaves that man open to up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted but if she is proved to have made false allegations she may not be charged at all and if she is will likely get a slap on the wrist or a few hours community service when in reality she should be made to serve same sentence the victim of her false allegations served. Unfortunately whilst feminist clown are in cabinet (Adams, Collins, Tolley, et al) and morons like McVicar exist nothing will change.

    Comment by JONO — Sat 21st May 2016 @ 5:58 pm

  2. Thanks John Brett for bringing this study. Interesting stuff.

    Unfortunately NZ Courts probably won’t allow the study’s findings to be applied to assess the credibility of a complainant’s evidence (as opposed to the accuracy and consistency – internal and external – of that evidence). Credibility is something the Courts insist is up to the judge or jury to assess on whatever subjective basis desired. Courts have been very reluctant to admit even anything of the huge body of research showing the fallibility of memory, even for historical allegations in which distortions and creations of memory are almost inevitable.

    Specifically for sexual allegations (probably because it is mainly men who are accused and mainly women who accuse), protections against false conviction have been steadily eroded. For example, the statute of limitations was amended to remove any time frame before allegations need to be made. Cases were allowed to proceed on the basis purely of a complainant’s allegations without any corroborating evidence; this doesn’t happen for most other offence categories and especially not those that women are more equally accused of. Police were required to treat any sexual complainant with special kid gloves whereby any questioning that implies the allegations may not be true is unacceptable; this seriously compromises police investigations from the outset. Complainants were allowed to hide behind screens or walls in Court, removing the protection against falsehood gained from an accused facing the accuser and conveying to the jury extremely manipulative impressions of the accused as a monster and the complainant as justifiably frightened. Evidence-in-chief was allowed to be given through unsworn videoed interviews recorded near the time allegations were first made, allowing the complainant to hear what (s)he said initially and to take care during cross-examination not to contradict any lies initially told. Cross-examination of complainants was seriously curtailed to prohibit questioning about the complainant’s morals and character, and indeed to ensure that any challenging questioning at which the complainant appears upset can be quickly shut down.

    Note that in this post’s story the person exonerated and awarded heaps of compensation after being subjected to poor justice was a FEMALE. Given the low number of females convicted of sexual offences, this represents a higher rate of exoneration and compensation than any equivalent for males. Males convicted of sexual offences are not encouraged to try to overthrow them and hardly ever receive compensation. Unlike our nun they are unlikely to be released on bail when they file an appeal. And of course, a man who is lucky enough to serve only 4 days of his sentence before being released on bail pending appeal will experience four days in a much harsher and less pleasant prison environment than our nun in a relatively civilized women’s prison.

    Comment by Man X Norton — Sun 22nd May 2016 @ 9:20 am

  3. There was a man accused, convicted and exonerated also, along with the nun-Nora Wall.

    The story is something of a witch-hunt, but not a hunt FOR witches, as this comment to an Irish newspaper suggests,but a hunt BY witches.

    Justice is often portrayed as a woman, blindfolded to symbolise her impartiality, holding in one hand the scales to show she is interested in both sides of any story, and holding in her other hand a sword with which to punish the guilty. With respect to members of religious orders, justice has removed her blindfold and laid down her scales. She wields only her sword.

    When she does, she is no longer justice. She has become something entirely different. She has become revenge. This is what is now stalking the land, striking down the innocent along with the guilty.

    Comment by voices back from the bush — Mon 23rd May 2016 @ 8:32 am

  4. Thanks for that information ‘voices’ @3. I didn’t look into the case further. Yes it’s true that the schizophrenic male also falsely accused and convicted in this case had his conviction quashed at the same time as the nun’s was. However, my argument that her exoneration and compensation represented a huge rate of such good fortune for convicted females compared with convicted males.

    If there had not been a female prosecuted then rescued (by the prosecution themselves), the convicted male would probably have been left to rot in prison. As it was he lived a life of destitution for a few years after the trial and died three years before compensation was ordered for the nun. I would bet that if he had still been alive at that time, he or both parties would have received much less compensation.

    I note also that the nun was almost certainly involved in considerable physical abuse of the orphans etc in the care of the ‘Sisters of Mercy’. Physical violence in Catholic (and probably other religious) orphanages and schools nuns either for punishment or driving out devils was common. Revenge for such treatment appeared to be one of the motivations for the complainant and her witness to make up the false rape allegation. It’s unclear why the male was also accused.

    Comment by Man X Norton — Mon 23rd May 2016 @ 8:56 pm

  5. History I know but still worth looking at to remind you how dangerous woman can be……–T24

    Comment by Bruce — Mon 23rd May 2016 @ 11:26 pm

  6. And from today’s NZ Herald ….

    A complaint that a 15-year-old girl was attacked and raped at knifepoint at Hamilton Lake has been deemed false.

    Police launched an extensive investigation into the alleged complaint in September 2014 and said the findings were helped by a large amount of assistance from the public.

    The offender was made up.

    Detective sergeant Kristine Clarke said the outcome should reassure the public about the popular hang out.

    “Police are not able to comment any further on the specifics of this investigation, however, we did want to provide some reassurance to the local community and visitors to the lake area, who were naturally very concerned about public safety following this complaint.”

    Police said at the time the schoolgirl was walking along Ruakiwi Rd next to Lake Rotoroa about 3.30pm on Wednesday, September 10 when she was grabbed and pulled to the southern side of the water tower and raped.

    A description of the man was given at the time, but it has since been discovered that he did not exist.

    Comment by golfa — Tue 24th May 2016 @ 2:34 pm

  7. Talking about dangerous women, check this one out. It’s not worth reading the entire rambling article that seems to indulge this woman’s need for attention, but you’ll soon get the picture. Like many violent women she finds it impossible to take responsibility for her violence, comes up with all kinds of excuses including ‘I was in a violent marriage’, ‘I wasn’t in my right mind when I did it so should be seen as the innocent victim’, ‘I was bullied into pleading no contest’, ‘I had an unfair trial’ and ‘my no contest plea wasn’t a guilty plea and really I was innocent’.

    Comment by Man X Norton — Wed 25th May 2016 @ 10:59 pm

  8. On STUFF today. Lawyers representing rape accused should . . ..

    Comment by Jerry — Fri 7th April 2017 @ 5:25 pm

  9. #8 Jerry. I read as far as the author’s name and stopped.

    Comment by golfa — Fri 7th April 2017 @ 6:08 pm

  10. Golfa @9: Yeah, me too pretty much. Although many others will take Catriona MacLennan seriously. And what does it say about FAIRFAX journalistic integrity? . . . No need to answer that – it was rhetorical only.

    Comment by Jerry — Fri 7th April 2017 @ 8:23 pm

  11. Incredible stuff, Ms MacLennan wants to abandon even more basic principles of justice to suit women and to put more men in prison even if they’re innocent.

    Comment by Ministry of Men's Affairs — Fri 7th April 2017 @ 10:15 pm

  12. I note MacLennan gets easy exposure in the media – but where was the coverage of the Men’s Summit. Guess I missed it. In my book all stuff from MacLennan amounts to “Hate-speech”, well it would if it was aimed at women.

    Comment by Jerry — Sat 8th April 2017 @ 9:43 am

  13. In a world with the leaders of MeToo making claims of rape when their description of events were not rape let alone when one examines the stories logically, consent at some level had to be present, men should be very concerned. While males with public profiles are having thier reputations and careers destroyed with no evidence other than comments made to a feminist media frothing at the mouth for click bait. Grievances, regret, and failed careers seeking new found fame are ignored.
    What lesson does this and it’s extension “glitter boobs” have on society. On one hand it tells men to not behave badly. In fact it seeks complete control over men to the point of any initiation or expression of desire by men is offensive. It is a power and control movement in disguise. It also teaches the female the enormous power they have when making accusations agianst men.

    Some examples.

    This male was imprisoned (no bail). This male was arrested and imprisoned without the police investigating. Only investigations by family saved this young man.
    Surely he split up with her, and he has a new girlfriend was a gigantic red flag.

    Referenced above and agian involving an aggrieved ex. Agian the police searched for incriminating evidence and turned a blind eye to evidence showing his innocence.

    “Last week the CPS announced it was reviewing all live rape and sexual offence cases after a string of defendants facing such allegations had the charges against them dropped when critical evidence emerged at the 11th hour.
    On Tuesday Mr Smith said the Metropolitan Police is reviewing 600 casest of rape and sexual assault.”

    Comment by DJ Ward — Thu 1st February 2018 @ 4:21 pm

  14. Following some of these #MeToo threads on #Twitter there are various views as to how these campaigns should define rape.

    Ideas such as a woman in public feeling that she is being viewed in a sexual way regardless of her behavior or dress should constitute some form of rape.

    They are lathering into hysteria over a females personal freedom and this I think is what has got some high profile personalities started to speak up not necessarily in support or men but certainly as Hillary Clinton put it, “This is directed at the bitches.”

    Comment by Evan Myers — Thu 1st February 2018 @ 4:48 pm

  15. 13, DJ in that last case,- evidence of the accusers rape fantasies was kept from the mans defence lawyer.
    Now there’s suggestions that this type of evidence should be supressed in every sexual assault case to increase the conviction rate.
    It seems the courts desire for accused men being imprisoned is more important to them than maintaining a reasonable standard of evidence.

    Comment by voices back from the bush. — Thu 1st February 2018 @ 5:37 pm

  16. White Knights – PC supporters and White Ribbon wearers.

    Blue Knights – Front line police enforcing feminist policy

    Black Knights – Detectives and Special Squads and prosecutors of Feminist persecution

    You don’t have to read far in history to see that this is a rogue regime that mirrors many others in history, that terrorize and enforce brutality. The behaviour of the SS, the Stasi, the KKK, the more obvious ones. They exist in social failure – but Feminism and the International scale of this makes it almost unbelievable and hard to accept.

    This also must have been the reality for the general public who existed within these regimes of destructive authority.

    Comment by Downunder — Fri 2nd February 2018 @ 7:01 am

  17. The real danger here and it is reflected in conversations I am having, is that good people don’t want to be part of this and are walking away. I hear this from teachers, law enforcement, government agencies.

    The downside of this noble gesture of course, is that it opens the door to a mass on new entrants, rapid promotion, immature abilities, and people easily lead to comply with the concepts of the regime.

    Comment by Evan Myers — Fri 2nd February 2018 @ 7:20 am

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