How to Explain False Allegations of Child Abuse in Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearings
We get many phone calls from people who want to know how to explain false allegations of child abuse in Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearings.
The answer will depend on the situation, of course. There are a variety of ways to show that the child’s statement is false.
But aside from proving the allegation is false, there’s a second question: Why did the minor make the false allegation to begin with?
I’m sure you’ve already spent a lot of time trying to come up with an answer to that question. It’s a question that the hearing officer in your Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing will likely be asking as well.
The below list gives some common reasons why kids make false allegations. The list is not exhaustive—there may be other reasons beyond these.
Keep in mind that in your Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing, some tactics are more persuasive than others. The evidence of facts of the situation dictate must dictate a defense strategy.
- Lying to get revenge
Sometimes kids lie in order to hurt the person they’re lying about to get back at the person for some harm or injustice they feel the person committed on them.
- Lying due to apathy
Sometimes kids lie for no particular reason other than chance—they feel like it at the time and don’t particularly care whether they tell the truth or not.
- Lying due to assumption based on dislike of the accused
Sometimes kids lie because they think their statement should be true, based on how they feel about the person they’ve accused.
- Lying to receive the social honor/credit received by being the teller of an exciting/dramatic story
People love stories, and therefore people love storytellers. People especially love interesting, dramatic, scandalous, heart-wrenching, mysterious stories. The more fantastic and over-the-top, the better the story. Storytellers are lavished with attention. It’s only natural for kids to be inclined to be storytellers.
- Lying to garner sympathy
This may be the reason a minor initiates a false allegation or it may also be the cause for enhancing, exaggerating an allegation. For instance if reality as told doesn’t get a strong enough reaction, the story could morph into something worse.
- Lying to appease the listener, give listener what child thinks listener wants to hear
If a child perceives that another person (adult or child) has a certain objective or perception that the person supports, the child may validate that perspective simply to appease that person.
- Lying to validate the listener’s expressions of sympathy
If someone expresses sympathy for a child, a child may accommodate the person by agreeing there is good reason for the sympathy, essentially so as to not make the person feel foolish.
- Lying due to encouragement/reinforcement from positive feedback
This one sounds a lot like “coaching.” The distinction is here the child knows that the allegation is false, whereas in other coaching scenarios, the child ends up actually sincerely believing the allegation. The impact the encouragement and positive reinforcement has on a child will in large measure depend on the age of the child.
- Lying due to hero/savior syndrome
Kids love super heroes and love fantasizing about being super heroes. If they can paint a picture of them being a true hero, they may do just that. For instance, this may come into play if a child portrays himself as saving or protecting a sibling from “the bad guy.” Or if the story is that the child is to be relied upon by someone else (adult or child) in a way that shows the child is dependable, strong, courageous, etc. These should serve as red flags.
- Lying to deflect attention after committing a mistake or misbehaving
When someone is accused of misbehavior, a common response is to try to blame someone else or point out that someone else made them do it. If there isn’t a convenient way to deflect blame, another similar tactic is to simply deflect attention to some other misdeed committed by someone else…or if no other such deed actually occurred, to make it up.
Young children have a hard time distinguishing between reality and fantasy. When listening to them tell a story, sometimes it’s easy to distinguish between what’s real ad what’s unreal, but for a social worker who unfamiliar with the child, the child’s personality and environment, it’s not so obvious whether a child’s statements are prompted by reality or fantasy.
- Source memory
Source memory refers to knowing the source of learned information, including knowing the environment in which the information was learned (i.e., time, place, etc.) It can be difficult to attribute a child’s allegations, especially for younger children, to a specific memory.
- Errant memory
The human brain’s memory is a strange thing. Memories can be stored in different compartments and trying to gain access to different memories can cause memories to get all jumbled up. In fact, memories can morph over time. What a person thinks he “remembers” may not be an accurate reflection of reality at all. All of this is especially true of children.
- Assumption that adults know answer
When an interviewer asks a child a leading question, it can serious damage (or taint) the quality of the response given by the child, and can even lead to false allegations. Children may assume the adult has more information than the child and knows more about a situation. This belief on the part of a child could lead a child to simply adopt another person’s version or perception of truth.
- Misunderstanding/miscomprehending based on limited/incorrect perspective of goings on
Due to children’s lower command of language, children can often get confused about what’s going on in the world around them. This confusion can lead them to inaccurate conclusions about what they see and hear, and even lead to false allegations.
- Limited verbal ability
Children often lack the vocabulary to accurately describe a situation. They may even use words that adults typically attach a particular meaning to, that the child doesn’t attach that same meaning to. Children may describe a situation in a way an adult wouldn’t describe it, and in a way that gives it a different meaning and gives the listener a false impression of reality.
For instance, a child may say, “He threw the ball at my face,” when in fact the person simply tossed the ball to the child, and the child, due to a lack of coordination, failed to catch it, causing the ball to hit the child’s face. Tossing a ball to a child while playing catch sounds very different than throwing the ball at a child’s face.
When a professional is evaluating a story told by a child, the professional may try to determine if the story is a reflection of stored memory (or rote memory) vs free recall. The more rote it sounds, the more likely the story came from coaching or rehearsing.
Did the social worker in your case consider the above issues? If not, the investigation against you may be vulnerable to attack.
You and your lawyer will need to analyze your case critically to determine whether any of the above should be presented in your Child Abuse Central Index Grievance Hearing.