News and Commentary

Why Should Persons be Concerned about False Allegations of Domestic Violence?

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Approximately two million Americans experience intimate partner violence each year(1). These persons need counseling services, legal assistance, shelter resources, and protection by the criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, each year 2-3 million restraining orders are issued in the United States (2), of which as many as 80% are unnecessary or false (3). As Elaine Epstein, former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, revealed,

Everyone knows that restraining orders and orders to vacate are granted to virtually all who apply…In many cases, allegations of abuse are now used for tactical advantage. (4)

False accusers not only divert resources away from the true victims of domestic violence, they render harm to the targets of their legal abuse. False allegations stain a person’s reputation, deplete that person’s assets, and can ruin a person’s career. They may deprive a child of parental love and attention which every child needs.

Kristin Ruggiero registered a disposable cell phone under her ex-husband’s name and sent herself a dozen threatening messages that portrayed her ex as an unrelenting batterer. During Ruggiero’s sentencing to serve 7-14 years in prison, Judge McHugh commented, “As a result of her actions, [other victims’] cases, their safety, their security has been damaged. The web for this is much greater than what has just happened to Mr. Ruggiero.”


(1) Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women. National Institute of Justice, Publication No. NCJ 183781, November 2000.

(2) Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. The use and abuse of domestic restraining orders. Rockville, MD. 2010.

(3) Foster BP. Analyzing the cost and effectiveness of governmental policies. Cost Management, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2008.

(4) Epstein E. Speaking the unspeakable, Massachusetts Bar Association Newsletter, 1993.

SAVE Special Reports:

(1) Incentives to Make False Allegations of Domestic Violence

(2) How False Allegations Harm Families and Children

(3) What is the Cost of False Allegations of Domestic Violence?

All SAVE Special Reports are available here.

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