But there’s a problem. A serious problem. Anyone who tells you that we can statistically peg the number of “false” rape claims is peddling a fatally flawed statistic. There’s a simple reason why: Our system does not adjudicate whether a claim is true or false. It adjudicates burdens of proof. Yes, there are some rare instances where an accuser recants, DNA evidence totally exonerates, or a defendant can decisively prove he is innocent, but those cases represent a small fraction of the whole.
If a prosecutor declines to pursue a case, does that mean the alleged victim filed a proven false claim? Very rarely. Instead, it usually means that the prosecutor doesn’t believe he can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If a judge tosses a sexual-harassment lawsuit at summary judgment — or if a civil jury rules against a sexual-harassment plaintiff — does that mean she filed a proven false claim? Very rarely. It instead means that the judge found the allegations insufficient as a matter of law or that the jury found they were not supported by adequate evidence.