Unfounding Sexual Assault

Examining the Decision to Unfound and Identifying False Reports

Cassia Spohn, Clair White, Katharine Tellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

One of the most controversial-and least understood-issues in the area of sexual violence is the prevalence of false reports of rape. Estimates of the rate of false reports vary widely, which reflects differences in way false reports are defined and in the methods that researchers use to identify them. We address this issue using a mixed methods approach that incorporates quantitative and qualitative data on sexual assault cases that were reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 2008 and qualitative data from interviews with LAPD detectives assigned to investigate reports of sexual assault. We found that the LAPD was clearing cases as unfounded appropriately most, but not all, of the time and we estimated that the rate of false reports among cases reported to the LAPD was 4.5 percent. We also found that although complainant recantation was the strongest predictor of the unfounding decision, other factors indicative of the seriousness of the incident and the credibility of the victim also played a role. We interpret these findings using an integrated theoretical perspective that incorporates both Black's sociological theory of law and Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer's focal concerns perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-192
Number of pages32
JournalLaw and Society Review
Volume48
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2014

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false report
assault
police
sociological theory
rape
sexual violence
credibility
incident
Law
interview

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Unfounding Sexual Assault : Examining the Decision to Unfound and Identifying False Reports. / Spohn, Cassia; White, Clair; Tellis, Katharine.

In: Law and Society Review, Vol. 48, No. 1, 03.2014, p. 161-192.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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