The term “false accusation” refers to an accusation of wrongdoing that is false, or untrue. An example of false accusation would be for a woman to accuse a man of raping her when he did nothing of the sort. Telling a false accusation is a crime punishable with jail time, particularly if the person lies to police or while under oath. To explore this concept, consider the following false accusation definition.
Definition of False Accusation
- An accusation of wrongdoing that is not true.
1350–1400 Middle English (accusacion)
What is the False Accusation Meaning?
A false accusation is an accusation someone makes about another person that is not true. An example of false accusation is a woman accusing her husband of beating her when he, in fact, did not. A person can have a multitude of reasons for making an untrue accusation. In certain cases, a parent may make such a claim about the other parent in an attempt to keep their children away.
Examples of False Accusation
There are innumerable examples of false accusation. False accusation examples can include child abuse and bullying, as well as stalking and rape, amongst other things. What is perhaps one of the more surprising false accusation examples is Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Here, a parent lies about his or her child, saying the child is sick. This is done to gain attention. The conditions and syndromes they make up for their children are almost always hyperbolic or downright false.
False Accusation of Rape
The false accusation of rape is perhaps one of the most well-known of the false accusation examples. The term “false accusation of rape” refers to the act of reporting a rape when a rape has not occurred. The problem, however, is that nowadays people believe the false accusation of rape more than in the past.
Part of this may have to do with the silencing of women who come out against powerful men. These men often have the money and lawyers necessary to settle quiet the women, and encourage them to change their stories.
This type of thing has featured highly in the news, as people have come forward with their stories of abuse against politicians, actors, filmmakers, and other influential people. It is the impetus for the Me Too Movement. During the time of the 2018 confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, accusations of attempted rape made its way to the floor of the Senate.
In 1996, the FBI reported that only eight percent of rape accusations in the U.S. were either unfounded or false. The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed this with their report the following year. However, given the sheer number of varying factors, and the fact that every case is unique, there is no true way to know how many accusations are truly worthy of criminal punishment, rather than the result of a misunderstanding. Studies do show that victims of sexual abuse and rape are far more likely to not report, than to make up false accusations.
Defamation of Character
When someone makes a false accusation about another person, and spreads it to others via word-of-mouth, in writing, or on social media, they may be guilty of committing “defamation of character.”
What this means is that a false accusation can damage a person’s reputation or perception of his character, and the target of that accusation may then sue the accuser to recover damages. There are two kinds of defamation of character:
- Libel – Libel is a written statement appearing in a publication like a newspaper or magazine, or even published on the internet.
- Slander – Slander is “orally published” defamation, such as that which a person utters in a speech, on the radio, or even in casual conversation.
You often see defamation of character cases come up when a tabloid posts something especially insulting or outrageous about a celebrity.
Suing for Defamation of Character
Successfully suing for defamation of character, requires a victim to show that:
- The defendant made a statement that was both defamatory and false, and that he knew, or should have known, it was false.
- The false accusation clearly identifies the plaintiff (person defamed), either by name or otherwise. (This is why movies have that “any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental line – it is so no one thinks they are maliciously going after someone with that same name.)
- The defendant “published” the false accusation (wrote it down or spoke it aloud) to at least one person who was not the intended target.
- The defamation damaged the target’s character in some way.
For example, an individual could write an article blasting a musician’s newest album, calling it the worst piece of garbage he ever had the misfortune to listen to. This criticism is a matter of opinion, not a defamation of character, and the First Amendment to the Constitution (Freedom of Speech) protects an American’s right to express himself. However, if the album so angered this individual that he wrote a retaliatory article saying the artist was a child abuser, then he would, more than likely, soon find himself served with a lawsuit.
False Accusation Example Involving a Supreme Court Justice
Back in 2018, Brett Kavanaugh was undergoing a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to become a Supreme Court Justice. During the hearing, several people came forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexual assault, and afterwards, many of them admitted to making false accusations in an attempt to derail the confirmation hearing. Most of those who admitted to the fabrications were women, however Jeffrey Catalan also took back his claims that Kavanaugh had once assaulted a friend of his on a boat in Rhode Island.
The face of the movement against Kavanaugh was Christine Blasey Ford, a psychology professor who accused Kavanaugh of having sexually assaulted her back in 1982. She testified to same, then subsequently received significant backlash including death threats. Ultimately, Kavanaugh received his confirmation to the Supreme Court, but the backlash still did not stop for Ford. As a result of coming forward, she had to move four times, hire private security, and leave her teaching job at Palo Alto University.
Many believe that the supposedly false accusations made about Kavanaugh are, in fact, true. They believe that the accusers recanted their statements after receiving pressure from the higher-ups to pave the way for Kavanaugh’s induction. Advocates in strong opposition to abuse and violence were devastated, as this fiasco lent fuel to the fire with regard to discouraging others from coming forward in the future with legitimate claims of assault.
Related Legal Terms and Issues
- Damages – A monetary award in compensation for a financial loss, loss of or damage to personal or real property, or an injury.
- Defendant – A party against whom a person has filed a lawsuit in civil court, or who stands accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
- Plaintiff – A person who brings a legal action against another person or entity, such as in a civil lawsuit, or criminal proceedings.