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Falsely Accused Day Spotlights Growing Exasperation of Judges and Juries with Pernicious Problem that Affects 20 Million

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Rebecca Stewart: 513-479-3335


Falsely Accused Day Spotlights Growing Exasperation of Judges and Juries with Pernicious Problem that Affects 20 Million

WASHINGTON / August 29, 2022 – This past week, First Circuit Court Judge Bruce Selya issued a milestone ruling in a case involving an MIT student accused of nonconsensual sexual behavior (1). The opinion will allow accused students who contend the accusation is false to file a lawsuit using a pseudonym. Being publicly viewed as a “sex offender” can represent an impediment to such students claiming the university failed to uphold due process protections.

The decision represents the latest in a string of victories by accused students who initiate legal action against their former schools. Over the past decade, judges have ruled in favor of the accused student in 238 cases (2). Many of these cases have been compiled and summarized in the SAVE publication, “Analysis of Judicial Decisions Affirming the 2020 Title IX Regulation” (3).

In South Carolina, student Erin Wingo claimed she was a victim of non-consensual sexual assault. Wingo filed a complaint with the Clemson University Title IX office, resulting in the suspension of the alleged “rapist” from the school. After the suspension was finalized, Wingo’s boyfriend sent the accused student this revelatory text message: “You’re innocent. I lied in that hearing. Erin wanted to have sex that night.” The accused man then filed a defamation lawsuit against Wingo. On March 25, 2022, the jury announced a stunning $5.3 million award against the woman (4).

More recently, a Virginia jury awarded $15 million to actor Johnny Depp for defamatory claims of domestic violence made by Amber Heard in a Washington Post editorial (5).

The high dollar value of the South Carolina and Virginia awards reflects a growing public impatience with the widespread problem of false allegations. A 2020 national survey found that 8% of Americans — 11% of men and 6% of women — report being falsely accused of sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse. The 8% figure represents 20.4 million adults (6).

False allegations can have a range of serious consequences including loss of family relationships, social stigmatization, impairment of career opportunities, and mental health problems (7). In response, New York (8), Iowa (9), and California (10) have enacted laws designed to sanction false accusers.

Falsely Accused Day will be observed on Friday, September 9. Falsely Accused Day will be marked by events held in the United States (11) and in other countries around the world (12).