Why didn’t these #MeToo women speak up sooner?
This has been asked time and again as the #MeToo movement gains momentum and more and more survivors share their experiences of sexual harassment, violence and abuse.
Implicit in this question is uncertainty about the credibility of victims – a focus on determining what is true and false. As survivors break their silence, some have been met with counter accusations that their stories are untrue.
The specter of false allegations continues to hinder the reporting of sexual violence.
There remains a public misperception that false accusations are common and that innocent men suffer as the result of being wrongfully accused.
The evidence on false allegations fails to support public anxiety that untrue reporting is common.
False accusations of sexual assault are extremely rare.
Research demonstrates that rates of false reporting are consistent across violent crimes, including sexual assault. Studies carried out in Europe and in the US indicate false reporting rates around 2%.
Because of the cognitive dissonance that occurs when we hear about rape, it’s difficult for people to believe that it can be true.
But it’s important to remember that each individual’s personal reaction is the first step in a long path toward justice and healing for the survivor. Knowing how to respond is critical—a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face zero consequences for their crimes.