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False Allegations In Acquaintance / Date Rape – Sexual Assault Cases In Colorado – Part II

by Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer for the Defense of Sexual Assault Cases in Colorado

Introduction – This article addresses how an experienced criminal defense lawyer analyzes and defends against false allegations – charges of sexual assault  – rape.

How To Defend A False Allegation In Sexual Assault Cases – The Indicators of False Allegations In Sexual Assault Cases

The reality of false allegations

False allegations do exist and they are very damaging to officers as well as the real victims whose credibility they undermine… bu they are the most damaging to the accused – the person whose life will never be the same after the allegations are made.

False allegations are more likely than valid claims to include a vaguely described stranger who used a great deal of force and to which the victim responded with her utmost physical resistance.

When false allegations of sexual assault are made, there are a number of reasons that might motivate this act. One of the most prominent among these is that some women fabricate allegations of sexual assault out of a desperate need for attention. Other reasons could include a need for denying or shifting responsibility for consensual sexual activity. 

Regardless of the reason, the false allegation can range from a somewhat vague description of an event to a detailed account perhaps supported by self-inflicted injuries and/or evidence.

Indicators of False Rape Allegations

As in the false burglary or robbery complaint, certain characteristics are found with greater frequency in false rape reports than in actual rape cases. 

The False Attacker

The literature suggests that a preponderance of rapes are committed by individuals who are known to the victim or with whom they have had some prior relationship. Many of these rapes are sexual assaults by friends, acquaintances, co-workers, associates, and even relatives.

In false rape allegations there seems to be a somewhat higher probability that the assailant will be a stranger, a “slight acquaintance,” a “friend of a friend” whose name the victim has forgotten. The apparent reason for such a choice is that the victim removes the possibility of being confronted by a specific individual and, in addition, does not get anyone in trouble.

By creating an essentially anonymous rapist, the pseudo-victim can effectively absolve herself of any responsibility for a relationship and thus affirm her basic innocence. In addition, by claiming to have been raped by an unidentifiable person, she makes it impossible for the police to “successfully” resolve the case, and the mind can freely shift responsibility from itself to the offender and ultimately to the police without fear of being contradicted. Of course, other motives are possible for deliberate fabrications, including covering up a pregnancy or other sexual consequence or for revenge.

Force and Resistance In False Rape Allegation Cases

One of the more obvious features of an actual rape is that its victims typically report being overwhelmed by fear. Because of this, the actual level of physical resistance is frequently low and thus the actual force used by the rapist may not go beyond verbal threats. Even though the rapist may not employ physical methods or a visible weapon in his attack, the victim is convinced she is in mortal danger and reacts by doing whatever appears most likely to preserve her life. Often this involves a relatively nonviolent submission to her assailant. On the other hand, those making false complaints seem to claim more frequently to have fought with all their ability.

They typically report punching, kicking, and scratching their assailants until they are themselves finally overpowered. Others bolster an inability to resist by claiming they were attacked and raped by more than one person. In other cases, the pseudo-victim claims the assailant was exceptionally large or powerful and able to overcome her resistance with relative ease. The important point is that false victims more frequently include the face-saving element of either having resisted or having been confronted with a situation that made resistance impossible.

Nature Of The Sexual Acts Performed In False Rape Allegation Cases

Although common law traditionally defines rape as an act involving sexual intercourse, the crime may also involve any number of other sexual acts. In a significant proportion of rape cases, women are subjected to acts other than or in addition to sexual intercourse. Such acts appear to be reported less frequently in the case of false complaints. Apparently, the report of rape is not seen by false claimants as requiring collateral reports of oral or anal sex, unless such acts are included in the person’s sexual repertoire.

Thus, the false claim of rape is usually found to be more narrow in its construction and seldom includes much more than allegations of penile penetration and the manual manipulation of breasts or genitalia.

This characteristics may arise from the reasoning that other acts are not required to support the claim, that the individual finds such acts personally repugnant and does not wish to debase herself, or that the mind does not require her to be ore deceitful than is absolutely necessary. Just as important, under-describing of the attack may be another manifestation of the false claimant’s naivete as to what actually occurs in these crimes.

Recall Of Details In False Rape Allegations

Women who have been raped are generally able to provide a reasonably accurate description of the event, including the nature and sequence of the sexual acts performed. Women who make false allegations seem to more frequently report that they had their eyes closed at the time, that they “passed out” and do not recall the penetration, or that they cannot recall the specifics of the actual sex act itself. In the opposite extreme, they may also provide an emotionless, but exquisitely detailed, description of the event.

It is important to note here that actual rape victims may also provide an emotionless description of what happened, a procedure that reflects their attempt to mentally disassociate themselves from the unacceptable experience. However, in the case of an actual rape, the description is seldom in the same exquisite detail.

Recounting the event may be embarrassing and emotionally unpleasant for the rape victim, but it is basically a recitation of what occurred. The woman making a false complaint is in a different situation. She must either “invent” the acts she alleges, or she must convert a consensual sexual experience into a “rape.”

 In so doing, she finds herself in a culturally anomalous situation. Unable to recount objectively something that was done to her, she tends either to become vague and evasive or to cross the cultural barrier and become overly descriptive.

Physical Injury In False Rape Allegations

Based on our experience, approximately one-third of the legitimate rapes include some form of violence against the victim. In most instances this involves hitting or slapping the victim, choking her, knocking her to the ground, and/or forcibly tearing her clothes off. In the small percentage of the above cases, the level of violence is devastating.

Rape victims who are physically assaulted (beyond the rape itself) may sustain serious injuries, including broken bones, the loss of teeth, mutilation of the genitalia and breasts, and internal injuries. False complainants do not usually present serious physical injuries. However, as one moves along the continuum of personal pathology, the extent of self-inflicted harm can increase 

Case example: A 27-year old housewife was found, in a dazed state, lying on the ground in a wooded area near her house. A threatening letter was found tucked in her panties. She claimed to have been assaulted, but not raped. She sustained a number of scratches and bruises but was not seriously injured. About a week later, she claimed to have been assaulted in her basement, resulting in serious lacerations. A message written in blood informed her that she had been “warned.”

This woman had been previously discharged from the armed forces for having made a false rape allegation, which was accompanied by self-mutilations. She had a long history of hospital admissions for suspicious injuries and illnesses. She was experiencing serious marital and financial problems and was having difficulty in evening college courses. The allegation provided her with an opportunity to become a “legitimate” victim and to receive care, sympathy, and support otherwise missing in her life.

These self-inflicted injuries are typically different from those that occur in actual sexual assaults.

There are two characteristics about the injuries claimed in false rape allegations that should be of interest. The first involves the wounds themselves, and the second concerns the victim’s reaction to her injuries.

Self Inflicted Injuries in In False Rape Allegation Cases

False victims who have injured themselves tend to exhibit an unusually wide array of wounds  

In spite of this, extremely sensitive organs or tissues such as the eyes, nipples, lips, or genitalia are almost never injured. Self-inflicted injuries are usually caused by scratching with fingernails or by cutting with a razor or other sharp instruments. As such, the wounds tend to be located within reach and at unusual angles. Often they conform to the range of motion of the person’s arm or hands.

This is particularly noticeable in cuts or scratches on the sides, front, and lower back of the torso.

Although the wounds may range from minor scratches to life-threatening lacerations or punctures, they usually appear more severe than they really are. This is because they are inflicted for the purpose of supporting the individual’s claim rather than to mutilate or kill. They also frequently reflect a sophisticated understanding of anatomy (i.e., major arteries or tendons are avoided and the likelihood of permanent disfigurement is minimal).

The second characteristic of pseudo-victims who injure themselves is their tendency to be strangely indifferent to their wounds.

They appear to accept their injuries with a degree of nonchalance not found in people who sustain similar injuries at the hands of others. Variations of this syndrome are often referred to as “la belle indifference,” and the feature is usually quite noticeable even though a general anxiety may be present.

Evidence In False Rape Allegation Cases

Law enforcement authorities correctly place a premium on the evidence supporting an allegation,

because it often provides information needed for the prosecution of the case. Because of the nature of a rape case, evidence is particularly important. Moreover, the consistency or inconsistency of the evidence may suggest that a rape complaint has been exaggerated or is completely false. An absence of the kinds of evidence usually associated with rapes can sometimes be as revealing in identifying false allegations as its presence is in establishing that a rape has actually taken place.

Some of the types of evidence that appear to suggest a false allegation are:

• Complainant cannot recall where the crime took place even though she does not report being blindfolded, under influence of drugs or alcohol, or moved from location to location.

• Crime scene does not support story (i.e., ground cover not disturbed; no footprints where there should be; no signs of struggle when they should logically be present).

• Damage to her clothing is inconsistent with any injuries she reports (i.e., cuts or scratches inconsistent with tears or cuts in clothing).

• Complainant presents cut-and-paste letters allegedly from the rapist in which death or rape threats are made.

• Note or letter is identifiable with pseudo-victim (via handwriting analysis, indented writing, typewriter comparison, paper stock, or fingerprint comparison).

• Confirming laboratory findings are absent.

Personality And Lifestyle Considerations In False Rape Allegation Cases

In false rape allegations, extensive and important information on the complainant is often available.

In general, this information suggests that the pseudo-victim has experienced numerous personal problems and that her ability to cope is seriously impaired.

For example:

• In chronological sequence, the “rape” follows one or more escalating incidents revealing difficulties in her personal relationships.

• Complainant has history of mental or emotional problems (particularly referencing self-injurious behavior, with hysterical or borderline features).

• Complainant has previous record of having been assaulted or raped under similar circumstances.

• Allegation was made after a similar crime received publicity (suggesting modeling or “copycat” motive in which the similarity to the publicized crime offers credibility).

• Complainant has extensive record of medical care for dramatic illnesses or injuries.

• Friends or associates report that the complainant’s post assaultive behavior and activities were inconsistent with her allegation.

• Complainant becomes outraged when asked to corroborate her victimization.

• Complainant tries to steer the interview into “safe” topics or those that tend to engender sympathy.

Catching The Fraudulent Rape Victim In False Rape Allegation Cases

The police should give the victim an opportunity to provide additional information without having to place herself in a psychologically threatening position.

If the victim is given this opportunity – after confrontation – there is usually an emotional confession, mixed with both despair and relief. The amount of energy required to maintain her story is exhausting, and this becomes a time for her to cooperate and seek solace. Exaggerators and malingerers often provide great detail as to how and why they masqueraded as a rape victim.

At the extreme upper end of this continuum, the complainant’s distortions will have been internalized and for her own well-being she will need to believe what she is saying because she is unconsciously terrified of losing control. Consequently, her denial will be intensified no matter how the confrontation is handled. Predictably, she will react with outrage.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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