False allegations of domestic abuse and other forms of abuse are difficult subjects to address, in great part, because our sympathies naturally rest with those who are victims of abuse. Although a large portion of abuse allegations are certainly true, a recent set of surveys by DAVIA (Domestic Abuse and Violence International Alliance) reveals some concerns when it comes to the discussions around those falsely accused and the degree to which false allegations occur.
Earlier this month, DAVIA received the results of a survey it conducted through an international internet-based market research and data analytics firm. The survey took place across 8 countries and involved over 9,000 respondents. The sample sizes in each country were statistically valid and showed false allegations as a palpable problem for men and women.
In a second question (Table 3), respondents were asked if they knew someone who was falsely accused of domestic violence. The result of that DAVIA question, at least in the U.S., was more pronounced than data reported by the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI). According to CPI, 17% of U.S. respondents to a YouGov.com survey said they knew someone who has been falsely accused of domestic violence. The DAVIA response to the same question, asked in 2023 and across 8 countries, showed a troubling number of respondents who knew someone falsely accused of domestic violence.
One trend that seems consistent across the DAVIA report and with others is the higher incidence of being falsely accused among those in child custody disputes.
Adversarial child custody battles are fertile ground for the lodging of false allegations of abuse. All too often, 1 parent will make a false allegation of abuse against the other parent as a way of gaining leverage in a court proceeding. In fact, it is an intentional and purposeful attempt by the accusing parent to throw the other parent under the bus and thereby gain all power in their custody dispute. As such, false allegations of abuse are a weapon of destruction in a family (Alan D. Blotcky, PhD, Psychiatric Times).
The YouGov survey conducted several years ago “revealed 8% of Americans report being falsely accused of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or other forms of abuse…. The 8% figure represents 20.4 million adults.”
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which tends to suggest false allegations are low, still asserts a figure of 2% to 10%, a disparity in percentage that indicates more research is necessary as part of state and federal data collection.
The prevalence of false reporting is low — between 2% and 10%. For example, a study of eight U.S. communities, which included 2,059 cases of sexual assault, found a 7.1% rate of false reports. A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston found a 5.9% rate of false reports. Researchers studied 812 reports of sexual assault from 2000-2003 and found a 2.1% rate of false reports.
The Trouble with False Allegations
In a recent tragedy, a 19-year-old committed suicide after being accused of a Title IX violation even though supporting evidence suggested there was no violation, according to a summary by Title IX for All of a pending lawsuit against California State University Maritime by the deceased’s father. The lawsuit asserts that “Title IX Coordinator Vineeta Dhillon … of bias due to her feminist activity on social media and allegations of her presumptions of guilt toward the accused during the grievance process.” It should be noted that males between the ages of 15-24-years of age account for 81% of suicide deaths in their age groups.
According to a recent NBC report, a “Stanford University employee was arrested Wednesday on charges of lying to authorities about two alleged incidents of rape that she claimed occurred on the California campus, prosecutors said.”
Jennifer Gries, 25, of Santa Clara, was arrested on two felony counts of perjury and two misdemeanor counts of inducing false testimony after an investigation found that she twice made false accusations of rape against someone matching the description of a Black male co-worker, in what Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen called a "rare and deeply destructive crime."
At the very least, it is certainly fair to conclude false allegations are worth noting, to what degree still remains unsettled in great part because many legal agencies and institutions are not following up on false allegations, conducting the necessary research, and providing equal protections through due process. The laws that currently exist are too vague and do not properly punish those accused of false allegations while simultaneously undermining due process.
The downward spiral of those falsely accused is real, leading to loss of careers, loss of child custody, increases in depression, increase in substance abuse, and loss of life.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 (Crisis Text Line). As of July 2022, those searching for help can also call 988 to be relayed to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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False allegations are a serious problem and I think you correctly identified one of the stumbling blocks -- people naturally want to sympathize with a victim, and if someone claims to be a victim, they sort of by default get that sympathy. Combine this with differing views of what happened, this makes it a challenge to find the truth.
But the consequences of false allegations, such as the suicide you pointed out, are so serious that we must get bias out of the system and deal with these very real problems in the most fair way possible.
Thank you for writing about this serious problem