From suspect to victim: Innocent until proven guilty...or?

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Mille Sørensen Fossheim
This quantitative and qualitative thesis is interested in one of the most controversial topics in
the area of sexual violence, namely false rape allegations. This thesis explores the even more
controversial topic, regarding the experiences of how it’s like to be the suspect in a rape

The quantitative part of this thesis deals with a categorization of 120 rape reports from
2022 in Central and West Jutland Police department. The categorization is made based on a
disagreement in the police regarding the number of actual false rape reports. The different rape
reports consist of five different categories, which are ‘clear’ rape reports, ‘baseless’ rape reports,
‘unresolved’ rape reports, ‘false’ rape reports and ‘uninvestigated’ rape reports. The quantitative
part of this thesis is developed by a content analysis, which shows that the false rape reports
make up 9 % of the total amount of rape reports in Central and West Jutland Police department
in 2022. The categorization and the quantitative content analysis is used as a background
material for the primary qualitative part of this thesis.

The qualitative study involves the categories concerning the baseless-, the unresolvedand
the false rape reports. The collected data for the qualitative part of this study consist of
interviews with three young men from the three mentioned categories, who have all experienced
being suspected of rape. In the qualitative analysis of the interviews, Erving Goffman’s theory
of social stigma is used to portray a nuanced and in-depth idea of the stigmatization that suspects
in rape reports can experience. The informants spoke about the feeling of being a victim, but
not being accepted as such, because they have already been stigmatized as ‘a rapist’ from the
start. As a result of the stigmatization, suspects in rape allegations are subject to different forms
of negative effects, which finds to have a significant impact on their lives, even though they’re
not convicted for the felony. These negative effects furthermore form the basis of different
negative feelings, such as uncertainty, meaninglessness, shame, incomprehension, and a feeling
of unreality as well as not being heard as a human being. Towards the end of this thesis, a need
for some kind of support and help to other individuals in the same situation, is discussed. Based
on the qualitative analysis, it’s concluded that the consequences of being a suspect of rape can
result in a psychologically vulnerable situation for the individual with experienced harassment
and social isolation.
Publication date2023
Number of pages71
External collaboratorMidt- og Vestjyllands Politi
Marie Skov
ID: 532420774