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1 in 5 rapes being proved false doesn't make 4 in 5 true

As expected, the true believers of the debunked claim that 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted in college are trying to tear down recent campus crime reports showing that 1 in 5 reports of rape are false.

In addition to showing that around 20 percent of rapes reported to university officials and campus police are false, the reports also shatter the illusion that 20 percent of students are being assaulted. And that hurts the narrative.

So activists on Twitter have been responding to my article by claiming that if 1 in 5 are false, that must mean 4 in 5 are true, and I should be focusing on the latter. Except, those 1 in 5 are provably false, meaning campus police or administrators were able to conclusively say the accuser lied. This might result from the accuser admitting she lied or from video evidence proving the crime never occurred.

But being conclusively sure one way or the other when so many of these cases lack physical evidence and are based on "he said/she said" accounts is a difficult task, just as difficult as being conclusively sure a crime did occur. Hence, the Department of Education has lowered the burden of proof standard down to "preponderance of evidence," meaning college administrators just have to be 50.01 percent sure a crime was committed.

So no, just because 1 in 5 reports are conclusively false, that doesn't make the other 4 in 5 conclusively true. They might be true, but they might be false. And we can't even rely on campus sanctions to determine whether an accusation is true or not. Just because a student was found responsible in a campus court doesn't mean he's actually responsible.

Colleges and universities are currently training those involved in the adjudication process using a "victim-centered" approach – in other words, believe the accuser from the start. There is an inherent bias in the way these accusations are approached, from calling accusers "victims" and "survivors" while calling the accused "the accused," to putting up barriers in the campus hearings so that the accuser isn't "traumatized" by seeing the person he or she accused.

Beyond that, the "victim-centered" training teaches campus adjudicators that signs of lying, such as shifting accounts or a lack of emotion, are actually signs of trauma. And at least one school, Stanford University, at one point was found to have been teaching campus adjudicators that if an accused student was acting "persuasive and logical," he was probably lying.

The remaining 4 out of 5 accusations could fall under the wrongly accused section, where a student was accused out of regret and found responsible under pressure from the federal government. They could also be false but lack the evidence to prove it. They could also be true but lack the evidence to prove it. Or they could be provably true.

And if you needed more proof that 1 in 5 are provably false, another school's campus crime report has confirmed it. At the University of Tennessee, 22.2 percent of reported rapes were deemed "unfounded," defined by the university to be reports that "have been determined to be false or baseless through a formal investigation by sworn or commissioned law enforcement."

Looking deeper into the reports, something else is troubling. In 2012 and 2013, more students reported rape to the university police department than to campus administrators, but in 2014 (as the campus sexual assault issue gained national media attention), twice as many students (6) reported to administrators than to police (3). There could be many reasons for this. Perhaps the police were unresponsive and deemed unfriendly to accusers, or perhaps the media focus on the issue and the existence of a kinder, gentler pseudo-judicial system that nearly guarantees a finding of responsibility is a more attractive option to accusers, especially false accusers.

And as I wrote yesterday, the schools finding 20 percent of reported rapes to be false (Tennessee, Harvard and University of Miami), could be outliers or they could be the norm. Another school, the University of Maryland at College Park, found a rate of unfounded reports to be lower, at 10 percent.

That's still higher than what activists claim. Activists shout far and wide that the rate of false reports is just 2 percent, so accusers should be believed outright. Diving into the number, we find that it's closer to 7.1 percent that are false, and even then, that's provably false. There's another 8.5 percent determined to be "unfounded," which means the report didn't meet the elements of a defense. On the other end of the spectrum, just 5.9 percent of reports ended in a "guilty" verdict, which would lead one to assume that just 5.9 percent are provably true. Even then, rape is the number one crime where DNA evidence is used to clear already convicted people. So even that 5.9 percent is uncertain.

And that still leaves a huge chunk in the middle where one cannot definitively say whether a crime happened or not. Certainly some of those reports are true, and some are false – we just don't know.

The bottom line: At least 1 in 5 reports of rape (at the few colleges studied so far) have been proven false. The other 4 out of 5 reports may be true or false or a mix.

I think the funniest thing in all of this is how the claim that 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault in college was enough for massive calls for draconian legislation to fix an "epidemic." But reports that 1 in 5 accusations are false are being ignored as a trivial matter.

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