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One in 10 Is Far Too Many

Nikki Yovino, 18, a student at Sacred Heart University, was convicted for falsely reporting that she had been raped by two football players. On August 23, 2018 she was sentenced to one year in jail. Prosecutor Tatiana Messina charged that Yovino — pictured on the right — had harmed “true victims of sexual assault,” who are “often disbelieved” because of falsehoods like hers. At the sentencing hearing Malik St. Hilaire, victim of her false accusation, explained, “I went from being a college student, to sitting at home being expelled with no way to clear my name.”

Considering the expenses for the criminal investigation, medical evaluation, pre-trial hearing, jury selection, trial, sentencing hearing, and incarceration, her false allegation, designed to curry favor with her new boyfriend, no doubt cost Connecticut taxpayers well over $100,000.

Nikki Yovino is not an isolated example. False allegations have become widespread in our society. According to one survey, nearly one in 10 persons – 9.7% — of respondents to a national survey said they had been falsely accused of sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse. Additional findings:

  • Three-quarters of persons claiming to be falsely accused were male.
  • In over a quarter of the cases,  the accusation was made as part of a child custody dispute.

One in 10 is far too many. During Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we urge you to contact lawmakers, campus administrators, and others to make these policy changes:

  1. Definitions of offenses need to be specific and require the production of corroborating evidence.
  2. Complainants should not be referred to as “victims” until an accused is adjudicated as committing a offense.
  3. Investigations must be balanced and fair, which cannot occur with “victim-centered” or “Start By Believing” investigations.
  4. Complainants should not be given incentives to make false allegations, such as priority treatment by immigration officials, special academic treatment, etc., especially when there is no requirement to provide objective evidence of abuse.
  5. The greater the severity of the allegation, the more due process protections need to be in place.
  6. Sanctions or punishments should not be imposed on the accused without objective corroborative evidence.
  7. Persons who make false allegations should be held accountable, based on clear and convincing evidence.

More information about false allegations for specific types of offenses is shown below….


The general public believes false allegations of sexual assault are a significant problem. A 2017 YouGov poll found that 45% of Americans believe false allegations and unreported/unpunished sexual assaults are equally problematic, while an additional 16% of persons believe false allegations are more problematic — see graph on the right.

On college campuses, false allegations of sexual misconduct are widespread. In over 100 lawsuits against universities, judges have sided with accused students. At one university, the Title IX training materials openly justify false allegations of sexual assault, claiming that verified “lies” of accusers “should be considered a side effect of an assault.”

False allegations have become a major problem in the criminal justice system, as well. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, perjury or false accusations are a contributing factor in 84% of exonerations for child sex abuse, and in 41% of wrongful convictions for adult sexual assault — see tall red bars in graph at bottom of this page.


The online petition Stop False Allegations of Domestic Violence now has over 38,000 signers. The statements are poignant, sometimes anguished. One petitioner from Jacksonville, Florida wrote on August 3, 2018:

I have never committed any type of domestic abuse or violence toward My Wife nor her daughter. I have never threatened them. My Wife has been starting arguments and trying to provoke me. She would then threaten to call the police to have me arrested because she has a restraining order against me. She would taunt me and call me a criminal. As a result, I have been sleeping in my car since 19 April.
Three reports examine the causes and effects of false allegations of domestic violence:


In the national survey described above, false allegations of child abuse were the most commonly reported category. One in six respondents personally knew someone who had been falsely accused of child abuse (65.8% of respondents), sexual assault (38.7%), or domestic violence (33.2%). One parent described the painful experience of being accused of child abuse by a son.

One meta-analysis found that false allegations represent 2-10% of all child abuse allegations. False reports are more common in custody disputes.

Several legal websites offer advice on how to deal with an allegation of child abuse:

The book, Wrongful Allegations of Sexual and Child Abuse, provides a scholarly analysis of the problem of false allegations in England and the United States.


The problem of false allegations is not limited to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, perjury/false allegations are the most common contributing factors for homicides — 69% of all exonerations — and for other crimes — 40% of exonerations — see tall red bars in graph at bottom of page.


The Nikki Yovino case illustrates how false allegations harm the wrongly accused, discredit real victims of crime, and impose needless burdens on taxpayers.

But there’s a broader concern. When nearly one in 10 persons report they have been falsely accused, and when perjury/false allegations are the leading contributing factor in wrongful convictions, this portends a profound erosion of public trust in the integrity and fairness of our nation’s criminal justice system.

The problem of rampant false allegations has become a cancer to our system of law, an epidemic that urgently demands attention from the public, lawmakers, prosecutors, and other stakeholders.

One in 10 is far too many.