False Reports of Sexual Assault: Moving Beyond the Issues

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
June 26, 2018

Carlton Hershman
Carlton Hershman
Detective, San Diego Police Department (Ret.)

One of the most important challenges for law enforcement training in sexual assault investigation is the idea that many – or even most – reports are false. These cases often have a number of “red flags” that raise suspicion in the minds of officers, investigators, and others, but actually represent the realistic dynamics of sexual assault.

The presenter will review differences between a false report versus a baseless report, and inconsistent statements versus lying. He will also discuss how law enforcement can unintentionally create a “false report,” by creating an environment where victims recant or withdraw. This will be contrasted with real case examples of false reports he has investigated throughout his career.


As a result of this session, participants will be better able to:

  • Identify the “red flags” that raise suspicion of a sexual assault report.
  • Recognize our gut reaction to these “red flags.”
  • Recognize that these “red flags” are based on cultural stereotypes of “real rape.”
  • Define a false report.
  • Recognize that some information provided by the victim may not be accurate, but this does not necessarily mean it is a false report.
  • Recognize how law enforcement professionals can create a “false report.”

Additional Resources

A great many topics were addressed during this webinar, and in the Q&A at the end. For more information on these topics, we provide the following resources.

OnLine Training Institute (OLTI) modules:

Information about the case in Lynwood, Washington:

Start by Believing philosophy:


EVAWI is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing to provide Continuing Education contact hours for nurses (Provider #15641). 

Registered Nurses may purchase 1.5 contact hours after completing this webinar.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K015 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.