False Accusations Undermine Child Safety But Safe Adults Should Still Report Reasonable Suspicions

In 2016, a young woman accused a young man of raping her in an alley outside a bar.

Ten months after the incident, the woman alleged that after she saw the young man playing pool with his friends, she attended a rape crisis center and called the police.

The man was brought in for questioning and charged with rape; however, he was acquitted after the jury found out the alleged victim told a friend on social media that her accusations were simply, "fun." Chris Riches "Man, 21, cleared of rape after girl says her claim was 'fun,' express.co.uk (Sep. 27, 2017).

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The young woman’s deliberate, false accusations caused the young man to endure public humiliation, spend attorney fees, and most likely, experience a loss of reputation.

Her knowingly false accusations also negatively affect whether other women or men who make accusations of rape will be believed. Although only about two to 10 percent of sexual assault cases involve false accusations, that equates to many lives disrupted and damaged.

Knowingly false accusations not only undermine the safety of adult rape victims, they undermine children’s safety.

Knowingly false accusations of child maltreatment often spring from motives like a desire to gain full custody of a child or to use false accusations as leverage in divorce or other negotiations. Some states have laws, for example, that if a knowingly false accusation of child abuse or neglect is made during a child custody hearing, the person making the false accusation may be sanctioned and will have to pay attorney fees.

Nevertheless, safe adults should report all reasonable suspicions of child sexual abuse that they observe and all reports made to them by a child even if they are not certain of the truth of the allegations. Only knowingly false accusations are prohibited. Those who report reasonable suspicions of child sexual abuse in good faith do not have to be ultimately determined to have been correct; they just have to report in good faith.

Trained investigators and law enforcement will determine, if, in fact, there is enough information to bring charges of child sexual abuse, and a jury will determine whether the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

What should safe adults do if they suspect child sexual abuse?

  • All mandatory reporters are required by law to report reasonable suspicions of all forms of child abuse (physical, sexual, neglect).
  • Everyone else should report child sexual abuse to help protect children.
  • Report reasonable suspicions of child abuse to police or your local child protective services agency or both
  • When filing a report, be prepared with as much factual information as possible (e.g., child's name, date of birth or approximate age, race, gender)
  • Stick to the facts. The professionals will investigate and reach conclusions.
  • Avoid telling the person taking the report what you think should be done or offer opinions regarding people involved in the report you are filing.
  • Always remain calm, polite, and professional when you make a report.
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