Who Makes False Allegations of Child Abuse?

There are myriad reasons someone may make allegations of child abuse against another individual or a family, and all too often these claims were completely fabricated. What families go through in the face of false allegations of abuse is well-documented, but when these claims are proven to be false, what happens to the accuser? We are Robert Raskin and Kathey Raskin, and like many others, we want to see major changes made in this system to protect children and families in the future. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, in 2012 there were 105 bills introduced that dealt with reporting abuse in 30 different states and in the District of Columbia. Every one of them included a penalty for failing to report suspected abuse, but not nearly enough included harsher punishments for those who make false allegations.


A Worst-Case Scenario

Imagine being woke up by a child welfare worker in the middle of the night and accused of a horrible crime against your own precious son or daughter when you have done nothing wrong at all. It sounds like something out of a nightmare, but the difficult truth of the matter is that this happens to people across the country, and we are all at risk. Anyone can make a false allegation of child abuse, and indeed many people do for a variety of reasons that may include custody battles, family and neighbor disputes, personal grudges, and overzealous workers, to name just a handful of countless examples.


The Aftermath of a False Accusation

If an individual makes an accusation against you, no matter how baseless it is and how obvious the motivation, it will be taken seriously and investigated by the state’s social services, who are bound by law to look into every claim. This kind of claim can result in the removal of your child from your home, which will expose them to the dangers of the foster care system, and a court battle to clear yourself and regain custody can decimate your family’s finances. Your family, reputation, and financial future can all be destroyed in the blink of an eye by someone who has used one of these organizations as a weapon.


Are States Doing Enough to Stop This?

One example of a state that has taken steps to deter those who would use child protection organizations to control or get revenge on another person is Oregon, where new legislation has been enacted that makes a knowingly false report of child abuse to a private or public official a Class A violation, and subsequent false reports are Class D felonies, which are serious crimes that may involve heavy fines and even jail time. More such legislation is necessary, however, because the accused family may never be able to undo the damage the accuser has caused, and it’s only right that the person who caused such anguish should bear the brunt of carrying it, as well.

False Memory Syndrome: A Dangerous Myth

Although it is commonly believed that it is possible for people who have experienced traumatic events to block those painful memories out and then recall them  later on when they are uncovered through therapy, this is the part of this so-called syndrome that is the most false of all. Despite the fact that there have been no credible studies that have demonstrated this scenario to be true, “recovered” memories have been used to “prove” many cases of alleged child abuse.  Despite the fact that there is no evidence that this syndrome exists, lives have been destroyed, and today there are many adults who falsely believe they were actually subjected to the memories that were actually created and put into their heads by overzealous therapists and social workers.

How it All Began

During the late 1980s memory regression therapy became popular, and as mental health professionals experimented with this technique they began to claim to be able to uncover repressed memories that the patient had no memory of and were only able to recall through guided hypnosis. In the early 1990s court cases began appearing in which the only evidence against the accused was these “memories” that the victim only had knowledge of once they began the therapy. There is no evidence that demonstrates that the human mind has the ability to repress trauma and then recover the memories later on through the aid of hypnotherapy, and modern psychiatry does not support the existence of this syndrome.

Satanic Panic

Perhaps the most famous example of False Memory Syndrome being used to destroy lives is the McMartin Preschool case, which took place during the 1980s and at six years was the longest US criminal trial in history. Through therapy that claimed to uncover hidden memories, children which until that point had reported no wrongdoing suddenly “remembered” that they had been involved in occult rituals in which blood sacrifices and sex acts had taken place. This trial cost the state of California $15 million, but more than that it cost the members of the McMartin family their reputations and their livelihoods despite the fact that they were found innocent and no evidence to back-up the wild claims was ever discovered.

Why Does This Happen?

What happened to the McMartin family is not an isolated incident. Different versions of this same scenario have happened to countless families and individuals across the country despite the fact that False Memory Syndrome was debunked many years ago. One study described how easy it is to implant false memories, and in this study it was determined that even claiming to see a person do something can implant a false memory that can lead a person to make a false confession. Corroboration by another person can easily lead to the creation of false memories, and when you are dealing with a child it is easy to see how they could be led in that direction by a DHR worker with a vendetta.

What We Know Now

Today the idea of False Memory Syndrome has been thoroughly debunked by the scientific community, and there have been numerous studies conducted that have explained how false memories are created. Although the number of court cases related to this phenomenon have sharply declined over the past several years, the fact that this was once a popular courtroom defense at all shows just how easily false memories and information can be planted into the minds of impressionable children. If it is at all possible, do not permit your child to be interviewed by a DHR agent without a lawyer, a qualified therapist, or other medical professional present.