Upon the aftermath of the Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault hearings and his final confirmation to the supreme court, the media has been under seize with opinions from the #MeToo movement, as well as the burgeoning #HimToo group (i.e., the social media recent angst that may connote an anti-#MeToo stance). Do Americans today need to fear False Allegations of sexual assault or harassment as we move on from this historic moment?
#MeToo and #HimToo
On October 11, 2018 Joanna Piacenza of the Morning Consult said, “About a year after the #MeToo movement gained prominence, a new poll finds most of the public is equally concerned for young men facing possible false allegations as they are for young women facing sexual assault.” She maintained in her article that 57% of U.S. adults said they were equally afraid about men facing false allegations of sexual assault as they are regarding women facing sexual assault. This statistic was cited from an October 4th – 8th, 2018 survey by the Morning Consult.
To further fuel the fire President Donald Trump, referencing Brett Kavanaugh, stated that it was “a very scary time for young men in America, when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of.”
57% of U.S. adults in the same survey said the #MeToo movement, that seeks to draw attention to sexual harassment and sexual assault, has made those surveyed feel, “equally concerned for young men facing false accusations and for women facing sexual harassment and assault.”
Now, I am not here to debate between #MeToo and #HimToo. I believe the #MeToo movement has been an incredible stand for injustice and a truly inspirational vehicle for those fearful to voice their traumatic victimization.
Cindy Dampier of the Chicago Tribune maintains, “statistics have shown that the incidence of false reports of sexual assault is very low — studies track it at about 2 to 10 percent of reported assaults, a number that is believed to be inflated due to non-standardized police terminology used to categorize a report as “false” or “unfounded.”
Furthermore she argues “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show in a 2010 to 2012 report that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the U.S. experience some form of sexual violence involving physical contact.” Moreover, the data from the Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey estimate that only one-third of sexual assaults are ever reported to police. As such, there are too many victims out there that never report and suffer in silence.
As of September 16, 2018, The United States population was estimated at 328,594,190 people. A staggering number to grasp, but that means some 6,571,188 to 32,859,419 people will contend with some form of False Allegations in America. Well, that is not a small issue for the American court system.
Right or wrong, False Allegations of sexual abuse do occur. The stigma of the false accusation can ruin a life and kill a career. Sweeping that stigma “under the rug” by means of a statistical argument does nothing to help those that suffer the repercussions of false allegations. There are several instances where false allegations wildly ascend above national averages. In particular, false allegations of child sexual abuse during a high conflict child custody and visitation battles are infamously used to achieve an upper hand.
In a 2005 study by American psychologist Janet Johnson and her colleagues (i.e., the most widely cited study on the phenomenon) found that 18% of all child sexual abuse allegations made during an on-going custody or access dispute were intentionally false. Furthermore, of those allegations where a family court judge decided on actual abuse, 30% of those cases were determined to be intentionally false. Please note, that typically around 36 to 50% of all cases of alleged child sexual abuse during a custody dispute are deemed “unfounded” but made in good faith by authorities. As such, it is very difficult to say with certainty how widespread false allegations of child sexual abuse are in high-conflict custody battles. Champions for Parents and Children estimate that 85% to 97% of like allegations are deemed false or unfounded. The results from Janet Johnson’s study conclude that when the police were involved there was only a 4% conviction rate. Moreover, it was found from that study that men and women are equal offenders of alleging false accusations.
Why is this happening?
The simplest answer is that the spouse who perpetrate false allegations are malicious and disturbed. Over the past few decades, as the domestic violence and divorce industries have grown, a perverse system has developed in response to spousal initiated allegations of abuse where the accuser is rewarded. The rewards come in the form of attention, the person they hate is punished and they receive social approval.
In these cases, regardless of the credibility of the evidence, if your spouse accuses you of this crime, and does so directly to the Court, you will realize that this is one of the few instances in the U.S. justice system where you are presumed guilty.
Immediately your parenting rights are terminated (i.e., at least from visitation) and a biased fight is on.
Regardless of the motives of the accusing parent or the credibility of the allegations, you will be treated as if you committed the alleged crimes.
This happens simply because we all hate abusers and pedophiles. Who does not want to support a parent fighting to protect their child! The sympathy and support from family, friends and neighbors drives more attention. Unfortunately, there are very little, if any consequences for those who make false allegations in family court. Ultimately, the false accuser has far more to gain than to lose.
What happens to those when they’re falsely accused? They experience a very rude awakening when they enter the justice system. Hopefully, the truth will prevail, but typically not without a considerable amount of collateral damage to themselves and their children. Again, the accused is assumed guilty until proven innocent. False allegations can turn a difficult divorce into full out war.
The accused typically must submit to prolonged alienation from their children.
The accused is caught in both the criminal justice system and social service bureaucracies, which may result in jail time and/or court-ordered therapy while the real criminal, the false accuser, wins possession of both the children and the marital home. Those who are falsely accused by their spouse also face the threat of presumably well-intentioned, but zealous and biased mental health professionals and court evaluators who are quick to believe the accusations of the false accuser based on little to no evidence. The falsely accused isn’t the only casualty of a court appointee’s or mental health evaluator’s rush to judgment. Both the accused and the children are hurt.
When the false allegations involve sexual abuse, children are subjected to a long process of interrogation, therapies and medical examinations, which can be invasive, confusing and traumatic. The falsely accused often suffers emotional and physical trauma, public humiliation, family breakdown and financial ruin. Furthermore, the relationship with their children may be irreparably damaged. Fighting to prove their innocence can take years and become a financial expense many men simply can’t afford.
Just as false accusers rarely receive consequences for perverting and obstructing justice, court evaluators and mental health professionals who wrongly determine that abuse has occurred through their own incompetence and biases are rarely held accountable. The people who suffer the most negative consequences are the falsely accused and the children.
Dean Tong author of Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused maintains, “Social workers and mental health care workers within the agencies have a tremendous amount of authority, their opinions are considered as fact, their credibility viewed as unassailable, unimpeachable, and their recommendations considered expert testimony and rubber-stamped by prosecutors and judges, in spite of evidence to the contrary.”
Furthermore, Tong explains that more studies, investigations and case evaluations are showing that the falsely accused are truly the ones being abused by social service agencies and family courts. Time and time again, the agencies responsible for handling child abuse allegations have grown into unmanageable bureaucracies. Moreover, they have an almost absolute authority over the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator. Many of these social workers investigating allegations of child sexual abuse and making determinations of probable guilt have little education or expertise in the areas of child abuse detection, prevention or trauma based psychology.
Larry Spiegel, a psychologist and victim of false allegations of child abuse argues that much of the problem resides within the social service agencies. He identified the following issues of concern:
- A system geared to believe abuse charges.
- Lack of proper training to investigate and assess the charges.
- The ease at which children can be led by social workers and therapists during the investigation interviews.
- The anonymous reporting system and convenience of an abuse charge in a custody battle.
Further information on the corruption of our Child Protective Services reporting system can be found here. And, a call for reform in false reporting can be found here.
Hopefully, this article has opened your eyes to the real consequences of False Allegations made during high-conflict custody fights. f you are currently caught up in such a dispute, please secure excellent counsel seek expert evaluations outside the realm of social workers & CPS/DHS therapists, constantly assert your innocence, try to maintain contact with your children, and be very aware of the people, policies and procedures against which you are fight.
If this information has touched you in any way, I strongly advise and want you to participate in our comment discussion.