Contrary to what most prosecutors believe, people (including children) make false accusations of sexual abuse. Sometimes these accusations are deliberate; sometimes they arise due to the accuser's inability to accurately perceive and convey the actions of the alleged offender; and sometimes they arise due to biased interviews, suggestive questioning, and/or taint. Regardless of the reason, the point is that people are falsely convicted of sex crimes, and their lives are forever shattered. Occasionally, alleged victims will come forward and recant their false accusations due to guilt, sympathy, or because they now realize that they were simply mistaken. This is exactly what recently happened in Virginia.
In 2008, a teen (then 17 years old) accused a Virginia man of sexually assaulting her while she was 10, and he was 14. The man was convicted, and sentenced to 7½ years in prison. Just this month, the accuser told investigators that her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites in 2007, so she fabricated the story to explain her behavior. The accuser stated that she blamed the man because his family had moved away and she didn't think police would be able to find him. Although there is an additional shocking twist to this story, it is not germane to this discussion.
Prosecutors are unsure as to why this teen now decided to come forward with the truth. Regardless, she has done the honorable thing, and we commend her for this act of bravery. As a result of her coming forward, however, she was charged with perjury. Personally, we do not feel as though a perjury charge is adequate for destroying a man's life, but we must think outside of the box here.
It is imperative that those who have falsely accused a person of a sex crime be given every incentive to come forward and tell the truth. Punishing people for coming forward with the truth will likely prevent others from coming forward, which we do not want. On the other hand, we must give incentive to people to NOT make such accusations by punishing them to the fullest extent of the law. As you can see, this is a dilemma.
Therefore, it would be logical to grant amnesty and confidentiality, for a fixed period of time, to anyone who comes forward with the truth. The goal here would be to free as many people as possible that are currently in prison due to false accusations. After this time period is over, anyone who is convicted of deliberately making false accusations of sexual abuse would be subject to more-severe penalties. This would send a clear message to people that such accusations will not be tolerated, and hopefully would prevent individuals from being wrongly imprisoned from that point forward. There would, of course, need to be latitiude given to certain cases depending upon the circumstances under which the accusations were made.
Please let us know what your thoughts are on this issue. Also, please share stories and/or links regarding incidences where an alleged victim has recanted his or her story, and came forward with the truth.
Disclaimer: The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use and access to this website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.