False Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse

This page was last updated on Sunday November 09, 2014

Projection occurs when someone falsely accuses another person by the attribution of their ideas, feelings, or attitudes toward other people. Sometimes this is an externalization of blame, guilt, or responsibility as a defense against own anxiety. More often it is simply scheming.  I have examined examples of male defamation in government and other public documents. Most cases of Child Sexual Abuse are false and they are generally used to educe something through illegal means.  In 2007, Anna J. Walker molested a 15-year-old boy, had sex with a 16-year-old boy and endangered the welfare of twelve minors. A judge sentenced Ms. Walker 300 days in jail when the court could have sentenced her to seven years and eight months in prison. The judge treated the case as a misdemeanor rather than a felony offense. The father of one the victims said "If this were a man, do you think he would have got this leniency?"  He was right.

False Presumptions of Child Sexual Abuse

In my statistical summary gathered from government studies, I noted that in children are safer with their fathers in areas of child neglect and child abuse.  I questioned the statistics about child sexual abuse and noticed that there was an anomaly in the statistics. The ratio between male parent only and female parent only sexual child abuse is (20.8 : 3.9) - 5.33 to 1. The ratio between female parent (and another) and male parent (and another) sexual child abuse is (11 : 2) - 5.5 to 1. The statistical sources did not comment on the nearly equal reversal of ratios and does not explain the apparent changes in behaviors.

The reports of the 1991-1992 San Diego County Grand Jury told of the bias against men and families.  The Grand Jury stated "There is no dispute within the Juvenile Dependency System that false allegations of sexual molest during custody disputes occur and that the system fails to deal with them properly. There is, however, considerable dispute about how to handle these cases. The Jury has found that a parent making a false allegation of abuse or molest during a custody dispute is very likely to achieve the desired result. These accusations are made primarily to avoid visitation and joint custody provisions and the accuser frequently succeeds." 

I had found a 1993 manual sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services entitled  Child Sexual Abuse: Intervention and Treatment Issues  by Kathleen Coulborn Faller.  Apparently this was written for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Administration for Children and Families - Administration on Children, Youth and Families - National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.  The manual was developed and produced by The Circle, Inc., McLean, VA, under subcontract No. S105-89-1730 to Westover Consultants, Inc. My own comments are contained within yellow shaded boxes.  Parts of text from that paper appear below.


Factors to Consider in Risk Assessment
 (Another Example of Faller's Pejorative  'He')

The choices are generally two - remove the offender or remove the victim. There is professional agreement that removal of the offender is preferable. Even though this strategy may not be as certain in preventing additional sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, it has the considerable advantage of providing a clear message to the victim, the offender, and the family that he is the person who has done something wrong and that this is serious.

If he is denying the abuse, the offender’s removal minimizes challenges to the child’s sense of reality and anxiety about whether he/she or the offender will be believed. Even if the offender admits and is willing to seek treatment, he should be asked or ordered to leave until a clinical decision is made that he should return. This action decreases opportunities for the offender to minimize the abuse and to manipulate the child and other family members into feeling sorry for him, placing responsibility for his abusive behavior on others or circumstances, and minimizing the damage to himself.


In the absence of facts, the author presumes that the father is the offending child sexual abuser. Of course an innocent man will deny abuse and yet he will be ejected from his home.


However, an additional condition for keeping the victim in the home and removing the offender is the mother’s support of the child, her ability to resist pressures from the offender, and her more general ability to handle stress related to sexual abuse and its disclosure. Finally, if the victim wants to be removed, this wish should be honored.


This arrangement gives the mother who falsely accuses her spouse of child sexual abuse more time to alienate the child against its father or father-figure.


The Interview With the Non-offending Parent

The investigative or assessment interview with the mother has several purposes:

  •  to gather additional information about the likelihood of the sexual abuse;

  •  to determine whether the mother is protective and supportive of the victim;

  •  in some instances, to ascertain if the mother has had a role in prompting the child to make or recant an allegation; and

  •  to understand the causes or dynamics leading to the sexual abuse.

Mothers may provide information that either supports or refutes the child’s allegation. However, as noted earlier, the child interview is the primary context for gathering information to determine the likelihood of the sexual abuse.  The typical initial reaction of mothers confronted with an allegation of sexual abuse is denial, both psychological and actual.

It is important for the investigator to evaluate carefully a mother’s protests that "this couldn’t have happened because the child is never alone with the alleged offender," that "the child has a long history of telling lies," or that "the child is making this allegation because she is jealous of the new baby" in light of the mother’s propensity to disbelieve or deny. Nevertheless, there can be circumstances in which mothers provide information that rules out sexual abuse.

Many mothers do believe their child’s allegation and provide corroborating information. There are also situations in which doubting mothers corroborate the child’s statements, even if inadvertently.

A major purpose of the initial interview with the mother is to assess her ability to provide support for the child.  Mothers whose children have been sexually victimized by someone who is close to them, such as a spouse, are placed in a very difficult position. Often they have no inkling of the abuse until confronted by a professional.  Mothers who are consciously aware of the victimization and condone or accept it are extremely rare. However, some mothers ignore signs of sexual abuse, for a variety of reasons, or are preoccupied with matters other than their children’s well-being.

As already noted, initial denial is common. However, a mother can decide her child’s well-being takes priority and provide protection, even as she struggles to integrate the allegations with her perceptions of the alleged offender and the child. Mothers should not be disparaged because they require time and sometimes treatment to believe their children have been sexually abused. Only when denial persists for months in the face of compelling evidence, and the victim is blamed, should the mother be considered unworkable.


In one case, a social worker tried to convince a child and her mother that the father raped his daughter.  This went on for more than two years and the child was placed in another home.  DNA testing revealed that another man raped the child, just as the parents and the child had said. 

Denial is a psychological defense mechanism where confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying its existence. It is a refusal to admit the truth, or reality, about something unpleasant. In this matter, the therapist is not in denial because she wants to create false evidence that the father had sexually abused the child. So the whole matter hinges on an event that never occurred because there was no evidence that it did occur. So this therapist not only blames the victim, but she is also the abuser - a sadist that enjoys hurting others.


The Interview With the Alleged Offender

Jurisdictions vary as to whether law enforcement or CPS conduct the initial interview with the alleged offender.  It may be preferable for law enforcement to take the lead role in order to obtain a legally admissible confession.  In addition, the law enforcement officer can obtain a warrant to search the premises and seize relevant physical evidence and has the capacity to "preserve the chain of evidence," so that the physical evidence will be admissible in court. Police officers are also the only professionals who can make arrests.

There are parallels in the expectations the investigator has for interviews with the alleged offender (father/father figure) and with the mother. The interviewer seeks additional information regarding the allegations, tries to assess the quality of the offender’s relationships with the victim and other family members, and attempts to understand the causes of the abuse.

There is a possibility that the alleged offender will provide information that either refutes or supports the allegation. However, the interviewer must appreciate that the alleged offender has a substantial vested interest in convincing professionals and others, including his wife, that the child is either lying, fantasizing, mistaken, or emotionally disturbed, when in fact the child’s allegations are true. Consequences for him are dire, including loss of his child, his family, and perhaps his job, and the prospect of prison.

Information the alleged offender provides regarding the abuse must be viewed with this understanding.  Nevertheless, there are cases in which the accused provides a reasonable alternative explanation for the child’s statements. This may be the case when the child’s statements are rather vague or relate to possible child care behaviors.

Some offenders will confess when confronted with the allegations. The probability of confession is substantially increased when the offender knows that treatment is available, even when accompanied by some punishment (i.e., jail time).  So if he confesses, he cannot return home but if he does not confess, then he is not fit to return to his home.

Remember the notorious inquisitions? If an innocent man refuses to confess, he is ejected from his home.  If innocent man does confess, then he is unfit to return to his home.

Child Sexual Abuse: Intervention and Treatment Issues consists of 132 pages and occupies 282 kilobytes of storage. This is a government document and there are no copyright notices or other restrictions in it but I claim fair use under United States Code Title 17 Chapter 1 § 107.

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Bankrupting and Destroying our Families

An intruder who raped other girls in her neighborhood had raped an 8-year-old girl. Nevertheless, the authorities ignored DNA evidence. Instead, they relied on the efforts of Kathleen King Goodfriend, now a discredited psychotherapist. Over a period of 13 months, Goodfriend pressured the child to falsely accuse her father. Subsequently, the police had arrested and jailed her father and her mother attempted suicide. The District Attorney had impounded the evidence to keep the defense from introducing the exculpatory evidence in court. However, this allowed the family's attorney to examine the impounded evidence and discovered some semen stains on the child's clothing and sent them out for DNA testing. The child was a week away from being adopted when the results of the DNA test came back, and the semen did not come from her father. This family was subject to public outrage, rejection, and ridicule. Moreover, they owed $125,000 in legal fees alone and were forced to borrow money from relatives. The family endured endless questioning, testing, and court appearances. They complained to the San Diego County Grand Jury that by coincidence was investigating Child Protective Services. The Grand Jury report described the agency as "out of control."

Factual Finding of Innocence

A Superior Court judge dismissed the case. He also made a rare factual finding of innocence over the objections of the District Attorney's office and ordered the destruction of the father's arrest record.  Note:  A reasonable doubt of guilt means that if a juror has reasonable doubt that someone is guilty, then they have to return a verdict of not guilty. A factual finding of innocence goes beyond a reasonable doubt of guilt to a moral certainty that the accused party is innocent.

The following report is not my own but that of the 1991-1992 San Diego County Grand Jury.  The original web page at the San Diego County Grand Jury web site (A Report about child Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Molest Issues by the 1991-1992 San Diego County Grand Jury - REPORT NO. 8 ) is no longer available.  In 1994, the Wade family settled a multimillion-dollar civil suit filed against Goodfriend, social workers, detectives, prosecutors and others involved in the case. Reportedly, the settlement was about $3.7 million.  Of that, $1 million came from Goodfriend.  However, that is not all. The District Attorney and Goodfriend aided and abetted rape, so the police should have jailed them as sex offenders.

But the irony does not end there. If the spouse supports her husband's denial, she is "accommodating his denial". If she accommodates this denial, she cannot be trusted to protect the child and she too will not be allowed to reunify with the child. Even when the mother believes the molest occurred and wants to protect the child, a current assertion is that the mother must have known all along and failed to protect. That then becomes a protective issue and reason to remove the child from the mother.

Still worse, if the child denies the molest, this can be seen as part of a "child abuse accommodation syndrome" and an additional reason why the child should have no contact with the parents. The child may be diagnosed as 'multiphase dissociative in or "in-denial" and thus unable to remember the experience. (While this does happen on occasion, the Jury has been convinced by numerous experts in this field that this is infrequent and should not be treated as the norm.)

Thus, all members of the family can deny a false molest allegation and, in each instance, the system uses the denial as evidence of guilt. In the case of Alicia, her father persisted in denying allegations of molest, but the mother was repeatedly told by her attorney and the social worker that her only chance to reunite with Alicia was to say that she believed her husband did it. The child, who persistently described a stranger perpetrator, was not believed. In order to allow her "the freedom" to "remember" without trauma, visits with her parents were terminated until she could come up with "a more believable story." This child was kept in court ordered therapy for two and a half years, twice a week, "dealing with the molest".

The Jury has heard reliable expert testimony that it is a mistake to force a child to relive and keep talking about an alleged traumatic event. Further, there is little evidence that a child will repress a traumatic event. There is good evidence that a traumatic event tends to etch itself indelibly on the mind.

After a true finding of molest, and the establishment of wardship, a reunification plan may be put in place. The reunification plan will inevitably require that the offending spouse complete Parents United. Parents United is a self-help group for in-home perpetrators of sexual abuse. The only way to complete Parents United is to admit the molest. If Parents United is not completed, there is failure to comply with the reunification plan. Not complying with the reunification plan is grounds for termination of services to the family and termination of parental rights.

Parents United has not always required admission of guilt to complete the program. In fact, it is still not required in some Parents United chapters. All psychologists testifying before the Jury were unalterably opposed to this requirement. Testimony was also received indicating that the recidivism rate for heterosexual child molest is 7-14%, irrespective of the treatment received.

A consensus of experts found that: parents and children need to learn to establish boundaries; children need to learn to protect themselves; an admission of guilt should not be required for reunification; the present system does not distinguish between degrees of molest; and removal of the father is not always in the best interest of the family or the child. The Jury has heard testimony from parents who have "admitted" molest only in order to reunify with their children. A permanent bitterness and distrust of the system results.

One of the most profoundly disturbing discoveries by the Jury was an extensively used test which is highly touted by many professionals for its ability to predict "age-inappropriate" sexual response. This test is called penile plethysmography. An attachment is made to the male penis, various sexually arousing slides are displayed, and the subject is asked to fantasize. Then his penile erection reaction is measured. Experts hotly debate the validity of this controversial test. In San Diego County almost every man accused of any kind of sexual perversion will be required to take this test.

Plethysmography measures a male’s penile response to erotic pictures and other stimuli. So this test is invalid because it creates an environment designed to produce an involuntary sexual response. The results from this test are usually not admissible in court.  Please see the Compendium for further information. 

Due to the inherent difficulty in determining the truth in sexual molest cases, the Grand Jury recommends that the standard for a "true finding" be changed from "preponderance" to "clear and convincing" evidence. The effect of such a finding is so profound, on the offender, the child, and the family unit, that this heightened standard of proof is truly justified.

When an allegation of sexual molest is made, the offending parent's contact with the child is usually terminated. The majority of the psychologists who testified before the Jury maintained strongly that this was not healthy for the child and that the child should at the least have conjoint therapeutic visits with the offending parent. The Jury concurs with that recommendation.

Since the father had no contact with the children, there was no Juvenile Court jurisdiction and the case stayed in Family Court. Family Court Services provide years of counseling, mediation, and the father still has no visitation. The father was concerned that Calle might have been subjected to ongoing molest as evidenced the medical finding of molest. Michael, by that time, reported satanic abuse. Each child was sent an individual therapist. The stories escalated dramatically. They have not seen their father for years. They saw him a couple of times this year in supervised therapy for the purpose of a psychological evaluation.

At the continued instigation of someone, most likely the San Francisco therapist, CPS became involved and a petition was filed. When the petition was heard in Juvenile Court, the appointed minor's counsel from Family Court appeared to explain the findings in Family Court. He was told by the judge that he had no standing in Juvenile Court and he was dismissed. A panel minor's counsel was appointed. He examined the existing records and also recommended that the case be returned to the jurisdiction of Family Court. The Judge dismissed him too. A third minor's counsel was appointed. The third minor's counsel agreed to the judge's jurisdiction and stayed on the case. There was a five-month trial in Juvenile Court with little resolution. (Mid-trial, the parties agreed to stipulate to a "true finding" which stated that the "child was saying she had been molested.") The child continued with the same therapist who was convinced of the father's guilt.

Defense attorneys testified that they allow and even encourage their clients to plea to a minor charge even when they are certain of the client's innocence in order to facilitate the reunification of the family and to avoid a trial. Defense attorneys feel it is in the client's best interest to avoid a trial because of public sentiment about allegations of molest.

In one case investigated by the jury, the father was accused of 13 felonies. After 18 months in Juvenile Court and personally bankrupt, he decided, upon the advice of counsel, to plea to a single misdemeanor. After reunification with his family, he asked to have his case reexamined. He contacted a ranking detective in the Child Abuse Unit and asked how he could do this. It was suggested that he take a polygraph exam. He did. He followed other procedures recommended to him. The detective began to believe that this man was innocent. He talked to the Deputy District Attorney on the case who treated the exonerating evidence as irrelevant and refused any action.

In the case of Alicia W., the first DNA results returned indicated that the father was not the perpetrator and that the identified and previously convicted serial attacker was within the 5% of males who could be the perpetrator. A repeat test to confirm these results was pending. The Department of Social Services had responded rapidly to a Grand Jury request to look at the new evidence and stop the pending proceedings in Juvenile Court. In response to a motion from DSS, the court ordered the hearing for the termination of parental rights vacated, ordered unsupervised visitation with the mother and supervised therapeutic visitation for the father. The District Attorney refused to lift the "no contact" order.

There was apparent proof that the father had not raped his child. Moreover, there was very strong evidence pointing to the person who had. Instead of "letting go", the District Attorney's office looked for unsubstantiated scenarios in which the father could be involved. The most specious statement was made by the head Deputy District Attorney of the District Attorney's Child Abuse Unit. "We have a believable child saying her Dad did it." This child gave a very credible description of another man for over a year. A detailed description was given to law enforcement on the day of the rape.

This same head Deputy District Attorney had provided the Jury early in its investigation with a copy of the Child Victim Witness Protocol which she had helped develop. This protocol clearly states that the earlier uncontaminated statements are the most reliable. It cautions against employing multiple interrogations. Why was the child not believed when she told her early story but believed implicitly more than a year later when she told a story implicating her father?

For example, the social study Alicia detailed all of the above indicators in detail. It did not mention that the father's drinking was not a source of a problem in his family. It did not mention the father's superb rating and a history of excellent performance reports and rewards in the Navy. It did not mention a family with extended paternal relatives. It did not mention that the mother managed all of the household finances and was very independent with a day care business in her home. It did not mention that there were no reports of any problems with her day care service. There was no interview of the parents of these children. It did not mention that Alicia was an "A" student who had just won Student of the Month. No one at her school was interviewed and the report did not mention an active participation in church and community activities despite a relatively recent transfer to San Diego.

Some Children Do Lie About Sexual Abuse

Psychological experts testified that children lie about these issues. Recent literature reflecting studies conducted by the American Psychological Association not surprisingly concluded that some children lie and others don't. Studies also indicated that young children can be very easily contaminated to believe that things happened which, in fact, did not occur.

Jurors observed a teenage girl testify to molest by her stepfather. She reported to a school counselor that he had touched her once on the breasts and genital area while she was clothed. She denied any previous occurrence. The evidence presented at trial included love letters she had written to an older maternal uncle with whom she was romantically involved. In these letters she wrote graphically about her sexual attraction to this uncle. She also wrote that she was trying to get her mother to strike her so that she could report the abuse to Child Protective Services and live with the grandmother. (Not coincidentally, the uncle also lived with the grandmother and the mother was trying to limit contact.)

Before the introduction of the letters the teenager had testified to a good relationship with her mother and no conflicts. The letters clearly indicated that this was not true. Despite contradictory testimony from three adults and a sibling who were awake in the next bed, the court made a true finding of guilt. Moreover, nearly everyone in the courtroom was solicitous of this child to the point of ignoring contradictions in her testimony. Psychological experts testified that children lie about these issues. Recent literature reflecting studies conducted by the American Psychological Association not surprisingly concluded that some children lie and others don't. Studies also indicated that young children can be very easily contaminated to believe that things happened which, in fact, did not occur.

The Cover-up

The Jury investigated a case brought by citizen complaint. The natural 18-year old son of a foster mother was accused by a 10-year old foster child of sexual molest. The child was immediately removed, the foster care license pulled, and the 18-year-old prosecuted for felony-sexual assault. The only evidence in the case was the child's allegation. The 18-year-old adamantly denied the charge. The 18-year old pled "nolo" to a misdemeanor charge with the understanding that this would be removed from his record in one year. The foster mother had not been informed prior to the placement of this child that the child had a history of sexual molest, multiple placements, and false allegations against various parties. While in this home the child made allegations against his social worker and classroom teacher. Each person who believed the stories told by this child (a 4 year-old girl) ultimately regretted it.

The social services record shows a trail of gullible adults. Even a Deputy District Attorney tried to adopt this child. She returned the child after several serious problems. This deeply troubled child now has an extensive record as a delinquent and no family to turn to. The adoptive family no longer feels capable of coping with her problems. There are dozens of these stories. Some children lie. Failure to recognize this as fact is ultimately not in the child's best interest. Each one of the children in the stories above has suffered as a result of the system's gullibility.

The Possibility of Fraud - The Fictitious Disorders

Mr. Lanning also stated that the blurring of the diagnosis of Dissociative disorder and the false conclusion is at least partially responsible. This opinion was confirmed by other expert witnesses. The DSM-III defines Multiple Personality Disorder under Dissociative Disorders but Multiple Personality Disorder is unusual in childhood sexual abuse. Therapists who have expanded the parameters of the Dissociative disorder diagnosis to include any form of dissociation have fallen prey to the logical fallacy followed that these patients also suffered severe childhood trauma. Proponents of this theory believe that with a sympathetic therapist, if any Dissociative disorder is found, memories of childhood abuse will follow.

No matter how incredible the allegations are, the believers accept them. No physical evidence is found. The "believers" have complex theories to explain the absence of physical findings and evidence. The "evidence" presented is the testimony of children. The children testify to fantastic tales which cannot be confirmed. The children have spent a considerable time with therapists. Most often, religious fundamentalism is an element.

Frequently, a "survivor" or someone who has "memories" of having been ritually abused as a child is involved either as the therapist, the social worker, the prosecutor, or the reporting party. Criminal trial juries find it hard to believe that children can tell such incredible stories if nothing has happened to them. They find themselves faced with either believing the children are lying or the perpetrator is guilty. Sometimes they have chosen to believe the children.

Another option is to choose to believe that the child's narrative memory has been contaminated by the therapy. In the Little Rascals pre-school case in North Carolina, 85% of the children received therapy with three therapists in the town; all these children eventually reported satanic abuse. However, 15 percent of the children were treated by different therapists in a neighboring city and none of these children reported abuse after the same period in therapy.

Edward Steven Nunes


Recommended Reading

Elusive Innocence: Survival Guide for the Falsely Accused, Dean Tong, Huntington House, ISBN: 1563841908

The Seven Sins of Memory: Daniel L. Schacter, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003, IBSN 0-618-04019-6.