Police officers’ perceptions of false allegations of rape

Lesley McMillan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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The idea that women lie about rape is a long standing rape myth with little or no supporting evidence. Previous research has demonstrated a belief in high levels of false allegations among police officers, despite no evidence to suggest rape is falsely reported more than other crimes. This has implications for complainants’ willingness to report sexual violations, for the treatment of complainants within the justice system, and wider societal understandings about what constitutes rape. The data that informs this paper comes from an Economic and Social Research Council-funded study that focussed on rape attrition and the institutional response to rape. Forty in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with serving police officers in a UK force who regularly deal with reported cases of rape, and explored perceptions, practices and processes around rape. The research found police officers’ estimate of false allegations varies widely from 5 to 90%. The paper will discuss how police officers make judgements about perceived veracity of complainants in rape cases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-21
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • gender
  • police officers
  • false allegations

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