Alleged false accusations of abuse: characteristics, consequences, and coping

Sanne T. L. Houben, Linsey Raymaekers, Leonie Loop, Desiree Vandervelt, Lawrence Patihis, Melanie Sauerland

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Abstract

We have very little knowledge about the characteristics and consequences of false abuse accusations. Sixty-one members of a German support organisation for allegedly falsely accused individuals provided information about themselves, the accuser, the accusation, the consequences of the allegation, and their coping strategies. The majority of respondents were male (90%), accused of sexual abuse (89%), and a parent of the accuser (71%). The initial allegations were frequently (72%) associated with the accuser undergoing psychotherapy. The consequences for the accused were psychological, physiological, familial, job-related, personal, and legal in nature. These included a loss of contact (98%), altered family dynamics (92%), depressive symptoms (48%), and problems focussing at work (44%). Eleven accused (18%) faced legal prosecution, but none of them were charged. Frequent strategies to cope with the allegation included contacting the victim support organisation (100%), seeking therapy (51%), contacting counselling centres (43%) and other victim support organisations (23%). Most of the accused felt supported by their environment (84%). Supporting and elaborating upon previous studies, this study exposes the potential consequences of alleged false accusations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory
Early online date27 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 27 Nov 2023

Keywords

  • False allegation
  • childhood sexual abuse
  • accusation
  • false memories
  • suggestive therapy

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