New results of a study conducted in Israel on false reporting of abuse should be of concern to everyone. This study focused on false allegations filed by women against men. This is not a gender bias issue – both men and women should be equally concerned.
Any person who has experienced a false allegation, be it professionally or personally, understands the potential impact.
Its consequences may result in an emotional and financial toll and leave a lasting impact on that individual’s marriage, employment, social relationships and beyond. It may affect career opportunities. It may sully a good name, the most important possession you have toiled a lifetime to build.
And importantly, false allegations only damage the cases of genuine abuse, by creating an environment of greater suspicion of the claimant.
Have you experienced the brunt of any false allegation? Do you know anyone who has?
It may take the form of insidious gossip, a formal complaint filed with the company boss or a letter from an attorney advising you of a pending lawsuit. Any of these can send your personal and/or your professional life into a tailspin.
The recent study published in Israel by Dr Yoav Mazeh and the Kohelet Forum found that “between 30%-70% of allegations of violence and sexual abuse of children filed during divorce procedures turned out to be false”. (http://kohelet.org.il)
As divorces have become more commonplace and more conflicted, ergo more litigious, the increasing allegations of spousal abuse and child abuse with a resultant rise in false allegations is not an anomaly.
The most revealing disturbing fact is that women whose allegations were unfounded or proven to be completely false suffered no consequences legal or otherwise.
Dr Mazeh points to a legal directive in Israel known as Prosecution Directive 2.5 that has in practice granted immunity to women whose allegations against their husbands were proven to be false.
Yet the subject of that allegation and investigation, most often the husband, a colleague, a fellow army officer, suffered significantly.
We’ve seen newspaper headlines alleging wrongdoing blaring on the front pages, though when proven false, the errata is typically found on page 22 in a bottom corner.
Which version lingers in people’s memories?
Some in religious communities have delayed reporting child sexual abuse to authorities on the premise that a false allegation can irreversibly ruin a person’s career, marriage, good name.
This is all true.
Yet the research compellingly shows that false reporting by children of being sexually abused is consistently very low in the 2% or lower range. Of course, any false report can do harm, but individuals and institutions can no longer hide behind that excuse.
Compare that with the significantly high percentage of false allegations against husbands in a divorce proceedings.
Many readers of this article may be familiar with at least one such story, divorce, as widespread as it is.
This research report can not be attributed to misogyny or anti feminist bashing. It is an inelastic social system inexperienced in the modern rise of divorce and legal maneuvering to favor maternal custody of children.
Our experience at OHEL working with a significant and ever rising number of divorcing couples is to carefully scrutinize allegations of violence and child sexual abuse by women against their husbands as well as allegations by husbands on their wives.
Mental health professionals are not detectives.
Ours is to uphold the law of child abuse and protection of children, not to establish whether the wife or husband broke or bent the law. That remains the purview of the legal system and at times researchers such as Dr Mazeh. His work should inform mental health professionals; attorneys, prosecutors and judges; religious courts; and the general public experiencing and reeling from a growing divorce phenomenon.
It should be of greatest concern to parents (and grandparents) whose primary interest is the emotional well being of the children to grow in a nurturing environment learning to love in healthy family and social relationships.
Societal rooting of a two parent family should not be replaced with a child product of divorce consciously raised to hate one parent. The ripple of a false allegation does not end when it is disproven.