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Unfounded Sexual Assaults: Recommended Processes for Investigations and Clearance Reporting

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2021

This training brief by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA’s) National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) discusses and provides recommendations on the management of “false” reports of sexual assault, providing recommendations for investigations of all reports of sexual assault, including those cleared as unfounded; and recommendations on the use of accurate and consistent clearance designations.


The discussion highlights current accepted practices in the investigation and clearance of unfounded sexual assault reports and provides guidance on ensuring that accurate clearance reporting of sexual assault cases, including those determined to be unfounded, involves a complete and impartial investigative process. The intent of the proposed standards is to 1) promote justice and law enforcement legitimacy in communities; 2) produce case decisions based on accurate, complete, and standardized data that benefit both law enforcement and public policy; and 3) improve the law enforcement response to sexual assault reports. Major sections of this training brief outline the five features of a complete and thorough sexual assault investigation for all cases and the key issues in applying accurate clearance designations for cases cleared as unfounded.

Date Published: August 20, 2021