The Harmful Effects that False Allegations Have on Children

Sometimes the court of public opinion (along with the harsh judgment and misunderstanding of CPS social workers) can make those who’ve been deemed guilty feel hopeless.

With concerns about child sexual abuse, much of the mainstream media and our society have taken a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach.

At the end of the day, though, the public isn’t going to be judging your case nor making the final ruling on your case. Regardless of whether the public wants us to believe all accusers, the facts will win the day.

Regarding facts, some of them can be uncomfortable to fathom. More specifically, the cruel reality that people use children to falsely accuse others of sexual abuse can make your stomach turn.

Defining False Allegations

In an article called “Effects of False Allegations of Sexual Abuse on Children and Families,” the nature of these false accusations is examined. (Julia A. Hickman, Cecil R. Reynolds, in Threatt, B. (Ed.) (1994). Evaluating children’s allegations of sexual assault. Austin, TX: Texas Legal Resource Center for Children and Travis County Bar Association.)

While some fabrications might be deliberate and malicious, it might also involve delusions, coercions, and misinterpretations.

Yes, some individuals falsely accuse someone because of selfish reasons such as revenge. Still, there could potentially be other factors involved, such as mental illness.

As much as I want to stress the horrific impact these allegations can have on the falsely accused, I want to make clear that I’m not painting all accusers as villains. There’s any number of blameless circumstances that can result in this horrifying scenario, especially when children are involved.

Unfortunately, even if the intentions of false allegations aren’t malicious, the ramifications are destructive.

Just as the accused suffer tremendously, so do the children who are being forced into making false allegations.

Children Feel They’ve Done Something Wrong

After being a party to false allegations, children now see police, investigators, and social workers hovering around them. They’ll likely associate this with having done something wrong. Such a factor can weigh heavily on a child and cause high levels of anxiety and stress.

The Investigation Encourages Children to Take on a Victim Mentality

Children in this scenario are treated as victims.

Furthermore, they are being handled in this way by authority figures they trust emotionally and depend on for survival. In many instances, it might be an overzealous therapist pushing this narrative. It can lead to children incorrectly thinking they were victimized.

Because of this occurrence, it becomes likelier that a suggestible child adopts this role of being abused.

This “victim mentality” might make them feel like they lack agency and power in their own lives. The negative effect this outcome can have as a child grows can’t be understated. After making false allegations, there’s a heightened chance that, as they age, children become victims (if female) or perpetrators (if male).

This suggests that false accusations can contribute to a cycle of family dysfunction that impacts multiple generations.

False Accusations Can Lead to PTSD in Children

False allegations of sexual assault can result in post-traumatic stress (PTSD) disorder in the child.

Such an affliction takes hold after someone undergoes a painful experience that doesn’t regularly happen to people. It’s linked to grief, chronic illness, war, and extreme child-parent conflict. It’s safe to say that being associated with false allegations goes beyond most common shared human experience.

Sadly, the child goes through this pain internally, and the effects are severe and enduring.

Making False Accusations is Conducive to Depression

One alarming piece of research from the article cited above is how being a party to false allegations is linked to the psychopathology of depression. The symptoms include lack of appetite, helplessness, inability to enjoy playing, loss of motivation, insomnia, and failure in school.

These situations can escalate to the point where the child accepts their responsibility for what happens to their falsely accused parent. At the extreme end of symptoms is thoughts of death and suicide.

Non-Abused Versus Abused Children

Alarmingly, when children are involved with false allegations of sexual abuse, it appears they experience many of the consequences that abused children do. Despite them not being subject to any physical transgression, they suffer just the same.

There’s far too little literature that assesses the kind of damage false accusations inflicts on children. If we care about the future of these children, this should be amended.

Furthermore, those weaponizing children to make false accusations must consider the damage they’re inflicting. People who commit such a despicable act end up destroying multiple innocent lives.