Home » Why Police Dismiss 1 in 5 Sexual Assault Claims as Baseless

Why Police Dismiss 1 in 5 Sexual Assault Claims as Baseless

Robyn Dootlittle in the Globe and Mail. In a 20-month-long investigation into how police handle sexual assault allegations, The Globe and Mail gathered data from more than 870 police forces. The findings expose deep flaws at every step of the process

When complaints of sexual assault are dismissed with such frequency, it is a sign of deeper flaws in the investigative process: inadequate training for police; dated interviewing techniques that do not take into account the effect that trauma can have on memory; and the persistence of rape myths among law-enforcement officials.

“What does unfounded mean to you? What does unfounded mean to anybody? It means ‘You’re lying,’.” says Ottawa criminologist Holly Johnson, who has extensively studied that city’s unfounded cases. She believes that high rates send a message that police don’t believe large numbers of complainants, “which reinforces damaging myths that women lie about sexual victimization, and could act as a deterrent to already low reporting.”

To conduct its review, The Globe and Mail requested unfounded data from every police service in the country, which covers more than 1,100 jurisdictions. Though not all forces complied with the request, The Globe received data from 873 police jurisdictions, which represent 92 per cent of the population.

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