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Investigating Public Misperceptions of Sexual Assault Allegations

Veniegas, Taryn Kay
Public misperception of the rate of false sexual assault allegations (FSAA) negatively affects survivors in their healing process (Hakimi et al., 2018), and in court cases where this misperception can cause biases among jury members and cause further distress for survivors of sexual violence. This study was designed to evaluate public perceptions of false rape allegation rates and to compare those rates to estimated rates of false allegations of other crimes, as well as examine discrepancies between perceived and actual rates of FSAA. Additionally, this study was designed to identify unique factors that predict public estimates of FSAA. Utilizing Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk) crowdsourcing data collection platform with an embedded Qualtrics link, U.S. citizens were invited to participate in an anonymous survey. This survey was inclusive of all genders, 18 years of age or older. Results demonstrated that respondents had a tendency to believe that sexual assault is one of the most common false reports given to police, estimating on average that 13.10% of sexual assault reports are false. Results also revealed that though sexual assault history did not alter FSAA estimates among males, female assault survivors estimated FSAA to be significantly lower relative to non-survivors. Findings also showed that the two subscales She lied and It wasn’t really rape of the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (IRMA; Lonsway, 1999) were predictive of perceived FSAA estimates. This study has the potential to inform sexual assault prevention, treatment, and education efforts.
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sexual assault,rape,false allegation,false sexual assault allegation
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