BBC and Rape Culture

My complaint to the BBC Regarding this Newsbeat article about false rape claims.

The outcome of the report quoted in the Newsbeat article, is that false rape claims are much lower than generally believed, and that the incorrect belief in high false claims (that it seems your Newsbeat team shares) is harming rape victims, resulting in fewer prosecutions.

Yet your article (even/especially the headline) focusses on the “problem” of false rape claims, and the devastation they cause. This is an article aimed at young people – are you aware that many young men already believe false rape claims to be a significant problem and routinely support rapists (even after conviction) as a result (see the #justiceforched hashtag on twitter for numerous examples.

You stated 2 false rape prosecutions/month, yet you failed to mention that there are 1500 women raped EVERY WEEK. You should be ashamed.

Please please, if you are going to report on rape, focus on the real problem, and that is how to stop women being raped.


The Reply

I’ve just been reminded in the comments that I’ve not followed up and posted the reply (Thanks Crosby). Here it is, in all its depressing glory, received on 15th March

Thank you for your feedback regarding the Newsbeat story on false rape allegations.

This was a story commissioned to specifically examine what it was like to be falsely accused of rape. To help contextualise the story we reported on a 17-month study carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service which set out to establish how common such false rape allegations were. In the past we have published many stories highlighting the issues surrounding rape and domestic violence, specifically targeted at our core audience of 15 to 24-year-olds. Please find links for two such stories below:

On this occasion we chose to look at those young people – usually men – who are occasionally wrongly accused.  We know from our audience research that among this group concern over this issue is commonplace – we sought to contextualise this anxiety.  I do not agree we misrepresented the study, or published an article that might somehow put people off reporting such serious crimes. However, having considered feedback, I agree we were not clear enough in our wording. For clarity we have changed a word in the second sentence from “common” to “unusual”.

In the fourth line of our story, we quote the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, who says false rape allegations are “serious but rare”. In the accompanying video he makes the same statement within the first 50 seconds. While our story hears from a young man who says he was wrongly accused, we ensure that rape victims are given a voice by running quotes from Dianne Whitfield from Rape Crisis. We also feature a video which contains a Nottinghamshire Police spokeswoman who says their starting point is always to believe allegations of serious sexual assault. She goes on to explain how thoroughly they investigate both sides of any allegation. Far from downplaying the seriousness of rape we finish our article by publishing the phone numbers of advice lines for people who believe they may have been the victim of rape or domestic violence.

On the day this story was broadcast we received a big response from our young audience, and we openly invited feedback on this challenging topic. While some people did say our reporting of false accusations was damaging to real rape victims, on our Social Networking sites false accusations were described as “disgusting”, and one young man told us that he felt the bigger problem was that these claims make life harder for real rape victims to be taken seriously. On Twitter another young male listener told us “Allegations of rape not only waste police time but wreck the lives of those accused! And another wrote: “My 23-year-old nephew was recently accused of rape. He then killed himself. The girl did it again to another guy.”

Our view is that all aspects of this subject merit coverage and debate and we will continue to do so.  Thank you again for taking the trouble to get in touch with us.

Yours sincerely,

Rod McKenzie
Editor, BBC R1 News

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