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Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault: Here’s Why and What to Do About It

— March 2, 2022

Often, false rape accusations will be made by people known to you or even people close to you.

On May 24th, 2021, 36-year-old Rachael Myla Stagner, a resident of Lander Wyoming, was sentenced to 21 months in jail by Federal District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson for laying false accusations against a white male. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Stagner pleaded guilty to the false accusations charges on January 4th, 2021. She was sentenced to a three-year supervised release and ordered to pay a $100 assessment fee.

The victim, who the Department of Justice identified as a white male, was lucky to get acquitted. Unfortunately, others are not as lucky and often end up in prison.

Sexual Assault Charges are Emotionally Charged

Sexual assault charges are often emotionally charged. Most people from the media, jurors, and the general public have a presumption of guilt on the accused even without allowing the case to go through the criminal justice system. Under such circumstances, your only hope lies in hiring a skilled criminal defense attorney.

Prevalence of False Allegations of Sexual Assault

Sex crimes are heinous, and offenders should pay for their mistakes; however, facing a sex assault charge does not mean a person is guilty.

Due to the fact that there are often no witnesses to sexual assault cases, false or exaggerated allegations are common. In most cases, false allegations may be fueled by revenge, an attempt to create an alibi, material (monetary) gain, or desire to gain leverage in child custody or divorce proceedings.

Those falsely accused are real people going through real stress over crimes they did not commit and that could potentially alter the rest of their lives.

Causes of False Allegations

Many factors can cause a person to falsely accuse another of sexual assault. Some of which may be genuine mistakes, while others may be motivated by malice.

Some common causes of false sexual assault allegations include:

  • False Memories

Under normal circumstances, memories are reliable accounts of events that happened. However, according to psychology experts, there are rare times when the brain creates false memories. Under such circumstances, the person may believe that something happened and, thus, falsely claim that they were abused without malice.

False memories can also be induced through manipulation, especially if the alleged victim is a child. This is because a child’s brain isn’t fully developed, so coaching or manipulation can cause false memory implantation.

At other times, a complainant may have been sexually assaulted, but has someone who is not the actual abuser in their memory.

  • Intentional False Allegations

There are times when a person willfully chooses to make a false allegation. Often, such allegations are motivated by monetary gain, revenge after a case of domestic violence, seeking attention, mental instability, or getting the upper hand in child custody.

If a person makes a false report and is caught, the person risks facing criminal charges that could see them serving time and having a felony on their record, depending on the severity of the allegation. Additionally, the accused person may choose to file a civil case against their accuser to recover damages resulting from the false reporting.

What to Do When Falsely Accused Sexual Assault Allegations

When facing criminal investigations over sexual assault or other forms of sexual violence based on false allegations, what you do or not do can mean the difference between remaining a free person and being incarcerated.

Here are some things you can do or avoid to better your chances of getting off the hook:

  1. Talk to a Lawyer

    Lawyer having coffee while at laptop; image by Mateus Campos Felipe, via
    Image by Mateus Campos Felipe, via

Most persons falsely accused of sexual assault may feel convinced that every other person will see their innocence. Unfortunately, they may be the only person that believes in their innocence and so choose to go it alone. Going at it alone can have very high chances of getting a conviction based on a false allegation.

The best thing to do would be to hire an attorney as soon as you realize you are under investigation for sexual assault. Most people think that hiring a criminal defense lawyer while innocent can indicate that you have something to hide, but the opposite is true. Your legal rights as an American citizen include having access to legal representation when facing criminal charges. If you hire a skilled defense attorney, not one just blowing smoke, you have a much higher likelihood of beating your case.

A criminal defense attorney takes your truth and gathers as many details as possible about your case, then uses that to build a strong defense while destroying the prosecution’s case. This improves the chances of beating your charges. Also, getting a lawyer early in your case ensures they get access to time-sensitive information by having your attorney contact the detective and contact the prosecutor.

Not every lawyer is best suited for your sexual assault charges. It takes a lawyer experienced in sex crimes and that is focused on building a solid client-attorney relationship to build a strong defense. Depending on the stakes in your case, you may even consider having a team of lawyers, with every individual member of the team looking into a specific aspect of the case.

  1. Avoid Contact with the Accuser

Often, false rape accusations will be made by people known to you or even people close to you. Seeing that they are people that you once loved or were part of your life, you may feel tempted to reach out and try to talk them out of moving forward. However, this can backfire on you making your case even worse, so don’t risk it by contacting the accuser.

There are situations where you cannot stay away. For example, if your accuser is an ex-partner with whom you share custody of a child. Under such circumstances, always ensure that another person is present to act as a possible witness if your accuser tries to level false accusations at you.

  1. Keep it Together 

False accusations can cause a lot of pain and feelings of betrayal. At times, you could feel like you want to let it out on your accuser, either in court or out of court. Unfortunately, acting out can significantly affect your case and further affirm the presumption of guilt.

Instead, follow your lawyer’s lead to better your chances of beating a rape case based on false allegations. Do not text, e-mail, or use social media to attempt to have the accuser contact you.

Consequences of a Conviction Based on a False Allegation

Convictions of sexual assault come with many consequences, including prison time, fines, and registering as a sex offender. In most states, sexual assault charges are classified according to the severity of the offense. 

In Michigan, for example, sexual assault charges are classified into four degrees, with criminal sexual conduct 1st degree and criminal sexual conduct 3rd degree involving penetration. In contrast, criminal sexual conduct 2nd degree and criminal sexual conduct 4th degree involves sexual contact.

While offense classification may differ from state to state, there is a general similarity with sexual assaults directed at minors, 12 and younger, carrying the harshest penalties. The nature of the offense (sexual penetration or sexual contact) is also a factor.

Penalties that accompany sexual assault can be too much of a price to pay for offenses you never committed. It would help to book a free consultation with a reliable criminal defense attorney near you to avoid such eventualities. If you have already been convicted, a skilled sexual assault lawyer can also help you file an appeal.

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