Do People Make False Accusations About Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault is a terrible crime that leaves victims grappling with what can be lifelong trauma. It’s important for society to believe in and support those who come forward seeking help after a sexual assault.

These types of crimes are so serious, it makes people wonder if or why anyone would ever make a false accusation. And while studies show that false accusations of sexual assault are rare, they do happen. Here’s what you should know according to Texas criminal defense attorney John Helms

Between 2 and 10 Percent of Sexual Assault Accusations Are False

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Justice, between 2 and 10 percent of all sexual assault allegations are false. The Justice Department states that it’s difficult to put a more definite number on this statistic, as few studies have been conducted on the frequency of false reporting. 

Perhaps the most infamous example of a false sexual assault accusation is the one made against several members of the Duke University lacrosse team in 2006. In that case, an investigation later revealed that the prosecutor in the case lied about the evidence. The prosecutor was ultimately forced to resign his position and was eventually disbarred. 

In the Duke case, experts have stated that the false accusation was the result of mental illness on the part of the players’ accuser, which was amplified by an overzealous prosecutor who used the case to help boost his personal profile in a challenging political campaign for reelection. 

Because sexual assault is such a sensitive issue, it’s always important for the legal system to handle these cases with respect and care. But that also means ensuring the accused is treated with respect and given an opportunity for a full and fair investigation, as well as a fair trial. It’s possible for a person falsely accused of these allegations to face repercussions for the rest of their lives, even if they end up being exonerated for the crime.

Reasons for False Sexual Assault Allegations

There are several reasons why false sexual assault reports happen. In any sexual assault case, the defense will most likely take a hard look at the possible motivations behind the accusation.

Additionally, any investigation should closely examine the circumstances of the alleged assault, as well as any previous relationship between the accused and the alleged victim.

1. Concealing Infidelity 

In some cases, an individual might claim a sexual assault occurred to cover up an incident of infidelity. While it may be difficult to imagine someone making a false accusation under these circumstances, the accuser might be desperate to conceal evidence that they’ve been unfaithful to a spouse or significant other.

2. Revenge or Malicious Intent 

It’s also possible for someone to make a false sexual assault accusation as a way of hurting another person’s reputation. In 2017, Rolling Stone magazine agreed to pay $1.65 million to a University of Virginia fraternity and one of the school’s administrators for a now-retracted story about an alleged gang rape on the university’s campus.

In the retracted story, a female student of the university claimed several members of a fraternity sexually assaulted her. However, she later admitted she created the story in an attempt to attract the affections of a fellow student. 

Not only was the alleged victim’s story unsuccessful in getting the other student to become romantically involved with her, but it also created years of mental anguish for the people she wrongly accused. 

3. Extortion 

In some cases, an accuser might threaten to spread accusations or rumors of a sexual assault in an attempt to convince the alleged attacker to pay them to keep silent about the claim. 

While these types of extortion cases are typically reserved for high-profile people, such as actors or political figures, they can happen to anyone. Most of the time, the individual threatening to spread a rumor tries to extort the money before reporting anything to the police, but these claims can sometimes result in an arrest or an investigation. 

4. Divorce or Child Custody Disputes

In a contentious child custody dispute or divorce, one spouse might accuse the other of a sexual assault or a pattern of sexual assault. This situation can happen if the accuser believes that showing that the other parent is unfit could convince the court to grant the accuser sole custody of the parties’ children. These types of false accusations can be extremely harmful as they can create a permanent rift between the parents. 

In other cases, such as a divorce, one spouse might attempt to allege sexual assault in the hope of receiving more financial support.

Defense Against a False Accusation of Sexual Assault

If you have been wrongly accused of a sexual assault, or any other type of crime in the Dallas area, it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer. Sexual assault charges can ruin your reputation and compromise your career. Don’t leave your future and your reputation to chance. Discuss your case by calling the top Texas sexual assault crimes lawyer at the Law Office of John M. Helms in Dallas as soon as possible. 

Attorney John Helms 

T: (214) 666-8010