After claiming she was attacked and sexually assaulted in the parking lot of Delta College earlier this year, a Mid-Michigan woman later confessed she made the whole thing up.
Now she is facing felony charges.
The majority of sexual assaults go unreported and false reports like this could lead to a chilling effect among survivors.
The issue of sexual assault on college campuses is well-known and well documented. It's an issue that made front page news locally in February when a woman claimed to have been raped in Delta's parking lot.
After months of investigating, prosecutors charged Mary Zolkowski with filing a false report.
Despite the recent case, sexual assault advocates said it's far from the norm.
"The reality is that false reporting of sexual assault doesn't happen anymore with sexual assault than it does with any other crime committed," said Annie Coker, director of the sexual assault center at Child and Family Services of Saginaw.
Coker has seen and helped several rape victims, but when news like this appears it still comes as a shock.
"I was surprised and I know that there was a lot of response on Delta's campus with students and you know, it heightens people's fear and worries on campus when you hear about a situation like that," Coker said.
Court records show falsely reporting an incident such as rape can lead up to four years in prison or a $2,000 fine.
For actual victims of sexual assault, hearing false reports like this can be just as detrimental.
"I really feel what it does is it makes other people deterred to come forward. And when people are deterred to come forward then it creates a domino effect," Coker said.
Coker said it's still important to believe the victim before turning them away.
"We still need to treat every case though that comes forward, as though we can believe them and support them. The belief is key to the healing," Coker said.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, false sexual assault allegations are considered rare.
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