Two of the most brutal things that can happen to a person can be:
1. To be sexually abused; and
2. To be falsely accused of sexual abuse.
For those who suffer the first injustice, they may have lifetime repercussions that affect them in nightmares, self-image and damage to their ability to have a healthy relationship with members of the opposite sex.
For those who suffer the second injustice, there is the potential of a lifetime behind bars.
As a society, we treat those who commit these injustices quite differently. The one who commits sexual abuse, particularly rape, will do time behind bars. As circumstances of the rape vary widely, I have seen sentences as light as 4 months in a “prison boot camp,” (when the victim asked for the light sentence because it was a family member) to multiple life sentences.
Those who falsely accuse others of sexual abuse, however, generally suffer no adverse consequences at all. Realistically, the only consequence these people face is that the public or a jury did not believe them.
Despite the ludicrous claims made during the “Me Too” movement that all sexual abuse allegations should be believed, a large number of such claims are false. Experts in the field will tell you that about 8% of the claims of rape or sex abuse are absolutely false.
An innocent person should not go to jail just because an accusation is made. However, in Idaho, that happens all the time. Police rarely question the truth of such statements. I don’t want to paint all police in such a bad light, though. This morning I contacted a member of the Bonneville County Sheriff’s office in Idaho Falls to discuss why I was not going to allow my client to come into the station to be interviewed by him concerning an allegation of rape that was not true. To the officer’s credit, however, he told me not to worry, that he had checked out the allegations and was about to finalize his report without even speaking to my client. That told me the charges were going to be dismissed. From what details I knew about the case, this was the right thing to do.
How can we know if charges are false? There are many, many characteristics of a false report of sexual abuse. Here are just a few:
1. Conflicting versions of the account. This is quite common, as those who lie can have a difficult time telling the same lie multiple times.
2. Versions of the story that are identical. If someone gives a narrative about an event, using exactly the same language in the same way, that person has been coached and is probably not to be believed.
3. Using language to describe the event that is not natural to the speaker. This is another indicator that a witness has been coached. If the report is in a style unnatural to the witness, or if he/she uses big words that he/she probably doesn’t understand, this is an indicator of a false report.
4. Reporting a rape that occurred when the victim was in the vicinity of a lot of people. Predators isolate their victims. In one case I tried to a jury, the victim claimed she was in a sleepover with 5 other girls in a living room, and that 5 minutes after the TV was turned off, my client went over to where she was sleeping, and had her engage in various sexual acts for the next 30 minutes. Uh, no, that doesn’t happen in the real world.
5. Deflection. This is an accusation made when the accuser is caught red-handed doing something she should not be doing, and wants to defect attention from her bad conduct by claiming some boy or man just did something worse to her. In the saddest case I handled, a five-year-old girl who was playing some toy gun game with a 12 year old boy was caught in her gradma’s knitting room, where she was not allowed. Immediately upon being caught, she turned to the boy who was leaving with his mother and said, “He touched me.” This false allegation led to poorly-handled forensic interviews of the “victim” who was asked a series of leading questions by a police officer poorly trained in such interviews, and the detective in charge of the investigation went to the boy’s school to ask questions of other students, and the cop told school kids that this boy had sexuallly molested a five-year-old girl. The charges were finally dismissed, but such severe damage was done to this kid’s reputation at school. The girl suffered no repercussions.
6. Misunderstanding of male sexuality. This is a big one. Many young girls fantasize about sex with boys or men, but they do not understand, mechanically, how male sexuality occurs. When you actually ask them exactly what happened, the false accusers describe the sex act in ways that cannot physically occur.
7. I-hate-my-stepfather. Some false accusations occur between stepfathers and their wives’ daughters. I have seen it happen twice when the mother is behind the false accusation because she wants to dump the stepfather for another man. It can also happen because the stepdaughter wants “real dad” back in the home and the sex accusation is a way to get stepdad out of the picture.
These are just a few of the ways that you can tell, or suspect, that an accuser is lying. There are many more indicia of false reports, but if you know someone who has been victimized in this way, that person needs the assistance of an attorney experienced in sex abuse cases.