We can all agree: no one should ever have to endure sexual discrimination, harassment, or violence. Victims of such treatment deserve to be heard, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to receive justice for what happened to them.
Unfortunately, each year on college campuses across the country, some people make allegations of sexual misconduct that simply aren't true. Such allegations can be frustrating and painful for the falsely accused. They also undermine the stories of legitimate victims.
Why, then, would anyone make such an unfounded allegation? After all, the campus penalties for sexual misconduct can be severe, including suspension and even expulsion. Cases can also wind up in court, and people can and do go to prison for crimes they simply didn't commit. And even in the best-case scenario, an allegation like this that goes public can follow a person for the rest of their lives. With the stakes so high, why would anyone want to put another human being through such trauma?
Below we take a look at some of the answers. We also offer suggestions for what to do should you find yourself in this situation, accused of a crime you didn't commit.
One of the most common reasons why people make false accusations of sexual misconduct is simple revenge. When you're in love with someone, it may be difficult to imagine that either of you would ever turn on the other. But relationships can run their course, and when they are reaching their bitter end, things can get ugly. One side may not be ready to let go. Both sides may feel betrayed. Someone may have cheated. Whatever happens, emotions almost always run high. When one of those emotions is anger, a person may be tempted to get back at the other by making a false accusation.
Revenge isn't always about love, though. A young person might be angry for a whole host of reasons. Maybe it's as simple as getting a bad grade on an exam. It could be about rejection. It might have to do with jealousy. Whatever the reason, an allegation of sexual misconduct can seem to some people like a good way to “get even.”
If you've ever argued over a text—and let's face it, who hasn't?—you know that communication is hard. Words can never truly convey our thoughts and emotions to one another. Then we start trying to guess what other people are thinking. We try to read their behavior for signs. It's a mess. It's no wonder, then, that life is full of misunderstandings. Sometimes those misunderstandings can lead to a false accusation of sexual misconduct.
Alcohol and drugs can exacerbate the potential for misunderstandings. Someone at a party mishears you, or takes your sarcasm literally, or misreads an action and chooses to put the worst possible spin on what they hear or see.
Other times people simply don't communicate effectively. One study (O’Sullivan and Allgeier) found that 50% of women and 26% of men have had unwanted sex that they consented to anyway. A number like that suggests that a good many people may feel regret for at least one sexual encounter they've had in their lives. Regret is a powerful emotion, and afterward, a person feeling that emotion may be tempted to “re-label” what happened as some form of sexual misconduct.
Looking for Sympathy
We all look for sympathy and attention from others at one time or another. That attention lets us know other people in our lives care about us. But if we're desperate enough to get it, we may be tempted to invent reasons for it. We might tell the story of an argument with just a little bit of a slant, so we look more like the victim than we actually are. We might invent a little adversity in our lives to make us seem like we're strong or independent. A person may even use an invented sexual assault, a false accusation, as a badge of honor.
Seeking sympathy can be a useful tactic in more practical situations as well, though. A student looking for extra time to complete a paper might suggest to a professor that they're dealing with a “difficult personal situation.” With Title IX and university policies demanding instructors report incidents of sexual misconduct, an allegation like this can wind up on the Dean's desk without the student even intending it to.
While these are some of the main reasons why people make false allegations of sexual misconduct, there are others.
The motive for a false accusation can be financial gain, for instance. Such an accusation against the right person can lay the groundwork for a lucrative lawsuit.
Finally, the sad truth is, some accusations come from people who are mentally disturbed in one way or another. They may actually believe what they are saying is true, or they may be susceptible to other people convincing them something occurred when it didn't.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help
It's useful to consider why someone may have made a false accusation against you. It can even help in preparing your defense. In the end, though, you may never know. In fact, one recent study (Zutter, et.al.) found that 20% of false accusers don't actually know why they made the accusation.
What matters far more? That you get the right representation to protect you from these allegations. If you or your child has been falsely accused, the first thing you should do is call attorney Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento specializes in student disciplinary cases. He's an expert on Title IX law and academic bureaucracy. He knows how to protect your due process rights and how to get you the very best possible outcome.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.