False allegation of child sexual abuse

In the State of Florida, it is a criminal offense to provide false information to a law enforcement officer in connection with the alleged commission of a crime. According to Florida Statute 837.05, making a false report to law enforcement regarding criminal allegations is a misdemeanor for a first offense but can become a felony with past convictions.

Any false allegations are treated seriously. One of the most complicated situations, however, occurs when false allegations of child sexual abuse are made. While these allegations may be raised by children, these children are usually coached or influenced by adults including caregivers and sometimes medical care providers.

False allegations of child sexual abuse are rare, according to the Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence. However, false allegations do happen. One of the more common situations in which false allegations arise is in the context of a divorce or custody dispute. A parent may claim the other parent is engaging in abusive behavior, or may coach the child to make statements suggestive of abuse.

False allegations may also be made against caregivers or teachers. In the 1980s and 1990s, day-care sex abuse hysteria occurred beginning with a prominent Kern County, California case alleging ritualized sexual abuse of children. Coercive interviews conducted by authorities resulted in children making disclosures of abuse which was later proved to never have occurred. A subsequent case in 1983 called the McMartin Preschool resulted in seven years of criminal proceedings to determine if daycare operators had engaged in satanic ritual abuse.