Huffpost UK Politics uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Chloe Emmott Headshot

How Not to Report on False Rape Allegation Statistics - BBC Newsbeat Shows Us How

Posted: Updated:

The BBC's is currently under fire for an article on the recent CPS report stating false rape allegations are indeed rare and that a disproportionate focus on such allegations deters many victims from coming forward. The BBCnewsbeat article does exactly what Keir Starmer, the chief prosecutor, warns against . The article turns the focus away from rape victims and onto the much rarer false allegations and how devastating they can be for those falsely accused, whilst largely ignoring the larger message that rape is widespread and under punished and that the misconception that false accusations are rife can deter women from reporting. The fact Newsbeat is the BBC's news wing aimed at a younger, teenage and young adult audience adds more disappointment; the British Crime Survey shows young people are more likely to suffer relationship abuse than other age groups. Many women's groups, under the banner of the End Violence Against Women Campaign, have written to the BBC to complain stating that "We believe that such misreporting of issues including false allegations and anonymity for suspects contributes to a culture where women and girls do not want to report to the police."

In her analysis of the BBC's response Valeska Matziol states "By focusing on the minimal occurrence of false reporting (0.2%!!) rather than the epidemic nature of violence against women and girls (VAWG) Newsbeat presented the former as more of a serious issue as the latter." Indeed the headline of the article reads "False rape claims 'devastating' say wrongly accused" and a statement in bold reads "Two people a month are being prosecuted for making false allegations of rape and wasting police time, new figures show." which illustrates the intended focus of the piece and only serves to take the focus off the main locus of the report which is the much larger number of victims of rape denied justice because of myths like these. In my view the article is indeed a gross misrepresentation of the CPS report; I'd go so far as to say it is a good example of exactly the sort of reporting the report warns against. If it was as they claim, a piece on false allegations and their affect on those wrongly accused, then why make the report the focus of the piece when the main message of the report is a warning against a disproportionate focus on false allegations being responsible for the public perception that false allegations are far more numerous than they are? The BBC piece seems to me a classic case of 'what about the mens?' that classic thorn in the side of feminists everywhere, a forced reshaping of the issue to make it about the small number of men falsely accused rather than the much, much larger number of rape victims, mostly women, who are denied justice. Kier Starmer himself states ""In recent years we have worked hard to dispel the damaging myths and stereotypes that are associated with these cases. One such misplaced belief is that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are rife."

Rape Crisis England and Wales states "Only 15% of serious sexual offences against people 16 and over are reported to the police and of the rape offences that are reported, fewer than 6% result in an offender being convicted of this offence.". One of the reasons women give for not reporting is a fear they wont be believed and such 'rape myths' , according to Rape Crisis "give people a false sense of security by minimising and / or denying the occurrence of sexual violence. They accomplish this by blaming the victim and making excuses for the perpetrator" asserting that false accusations are rife is just such a myth. As Jennifer James states on the F word blog many women's allegations in the Saville case were dismissed, they were not believed they were 'just the women', the same happened in the Rochdale case where the girls were believed to be 'making their own choices' despite them complaining to social workers , and the same happens to women all over the U.K. The BBC perpetuating 'rape myths' such as this is disgrace, something that falls far below the standards expected of a public service broadcaster.