Trevor Bauer accuser may have been a fraud. But most reports of sexual violence are real.

I can hear them now. "She lied." "She did it for attention." "She did it to get at his money."

It's the kind of case that makes lawyers who represent victims of sexual violence cringe because it makes things so much harder for the survivors.

I'm talking about the recent revelation that one of former Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor Bauer's four accusers, Darcy Adanna Esemonu, has been indicted of fraud after being accused of faking a pregnancy and extorting the former player.

Esemonu accused Bauer of sexually assaulting and choking her in Arizona in 2020. Bauer countersued, alleging fraud and extortion. He also said the encounter was consensual.

On Wednesday, Bauer settled a lawsuit out of court with another one of his accusers, Lindsey Hill, whom he also countersued.

Faking a sexual assault does happen. But it's uncommon for people to make up allegations of rape, sexual violence or pregnancy as a result of rape. A 2010 study published by the National Library of Medicine found that 2% to 10% of rape cases involve false allegations.

It's usually the other way around: Victims don't talk about the crimes committed against them, let alone report those crimes to authorities.

And sometimes, in the worst cases, the victims become the subjects of the investigation in a strategy referred to as "DARVO," which stands for "deny, attack, reverse victim and offender."

Why victims of sexual violence don't report

Rape victims and other victims of sexual violence don't report the crimes committed against them for many reasons. The rapist may be a family member or someone well known to them or well known in their community (most victims of sexual violence, especially children, are raped by someone they know).

Victims may be worried about what people will say about them; they may want to avoid what they see as "shame" on themselves or their family's "good name." They may be worried that people will blame them: "What did she think was going to happen playing pool in a bar at night?" "Have you seen how she dresses?" "She's such a flirt." "How can a grown man get raped?"

Trevor Bauer gestures during the Diablos Rojos' exhibition game against New York Yankees at the Alfredo Harp Helu stadium in Mexico City on March 24, 2024.
Trevor Bauer gestures during the Diablos Rojos' exhibition game against New York Yankees at the Alfredo Harp Helu stadium in Mexico City on March 24, 2024.

They may blame themselves for not physically fighting back, or not screaming "No!" This, even though more and more countries are moving toward a consent-based definition of rape laws grounded in international legal precedent that says fighting back is not necessary to show lack of consent because victims often don't resist for a variety of reasons, including fear or shock.

Victims also may be traumatized and afraid to have a doctor examine them after their physical integrity has been violated. In some places, the victim may be worried about being raped by police if they go to report. Sometimes, they do report but long after the assault, because it takes time to process what happened, especially when their attacker was someone the victim knows.

I said no to my kid's sleepover invite. Sexual violence is just too rampant.

And recently, rape survivors may be afraid of being sued for defamation, as aggressors are more often turning to this legal strategy as a way to muzzle their victims.

How common are false reports of rape? How often do people report rape?

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), only 310 out of 1,000 rapes are reported to authorities. For college-age females, only 20% report, and in the military only 10% of male rape victims report.

From my experience working with victims of domestic violence and sexual violence, the person who reports is an exception. Most don't.

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As for false rape reports, it's also hard to know exactly how many were false and how many were determined to be false by authorities – but might not have been. That's because police and other first responders may misidentify the characteristics of a person who has experienced sexual violence based on bias and cultural stereotypes.

For instance, they might assume there was no rape if victims don't have defensive wounds because they didn't fight back. They may assume there was no rape if the victim waits to come forward and report. They could assume there was no sexual assault if the victim is a sex worker, or has a certain "reputation." Bias and cultural conditioning play a heavy role in how we see sexual violence and the people who have been subjected to it.

When the alleged perpetrator is powerful, it's easy to assume money might be the motive behind the accusation. But assumptions are not facts.

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I don't know what happened in Bauer's case. I do know that he hasn't pitched in Major League Baseball since 2021, when another woman accused him of sexual violence. MLB recently has come down hard on players accused of serious misconduct under its domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse policy.

If Bauer did what his accusers say he did, then at least he has faced a significant consequence (albeit not a criminal one). If he didn't, then his punishment is entirely unfair and the MLB should let him play again.

As an attorney and advocate for victims' rights, I believe it's a question for the legal courts, and not the court of public opinion, to decide. But it's important not to get swept up in the idea that false accusations of sexual assault are common. They're not. And we miss far too many victims as it stands.

Carli Pierson is a digital editor at USA TODAY and an attorney. She recently finished a legal consultancy with Equality Now, an international feminist organization working to eliminate sexual violence and discrimination against women and girls.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Bauer accuser was indicted for fraud. But false rape reports are rare