Why was I accused of sexual assault?
There are a number of reasons why false sexual assault claims are made; they are often specific to the situation and the circumstances. In some cases, you may have had consensual sexual intercourse with the complainant; in other cases, there may not have been any sexual relations with the complainant whatsoever (which can make the situation you are in even more perplexing). That being said, there are some general reasons why they happen.
Memory is not perfect. It is possible that a complainant can believe that a sexual assault happened when it, in fact, did not. This is a phenomenon known as false memories. It has resulted in false accusations, and unfortunately, wrongful convictions. It typically happens as a result of psychotherapy that aims to recover memories repressed due to traumatic events; it has been proven that this kind of therapy actually has the ability to create ‘memories’ that are fake rather than allowing someone to accurately recall truly latent memories. This therapy also usually focuses on childhood and adolescent memories. As such, the phenomenon most often arises in claims involving a historical sexual assault, where a considerable length of time has passed between the alleged assault(s) and when the accusation is made.
Even if a sexual assault did happen, it is also possible that the complainant does not remember the perpetrator correctly. Not only can the brain produce false memories, it can confuse memories: The complainant may remember seeing the accused right before a sexual assault occurred and then believe that person was the perpetrator—even if the accused had absolutely nothing to do with the actual assault.
It is these kinds of situations that make the process of dealing with an unfounded sexual assault charge particularly difficult, because the complainant may honestly and truthfully believe that they were sexually assaulted and that the accused was the one who perpetrated the assault.
Human psychology and emotion are also not straightforward. They are complex. A complainant may have consented to sexual relations at the time, but upon reflection, they feel that they did not want to or should not have wanted to engage in sexual activity. They may feel shame and regret about what took place. They may be disappointed in themselves, and they may convince themselves that they were the sexually assaulted, even though it is not true.
With younger accusers who may not understand the full gravity of making such a claim, it could be a matter of not wanting to get into trouble with parents or concealing or explaining behaviour, such as missing curfew. The complainant may not expect the accusation to spiral out of control or for anyone to get hurt. In these cases, it is often a third party who wants to file a police report, not the complainant.
There are also accusations made due to the complainant wanting attention or sympathy. Allegations being made as a result of mental illness have been documented as well.
Of course, more sinister motives for making false accusations exist, such as seeking revenge. Relationships sour. It could be that the allegation is made to make the accused suffer and to ruin their reputation. Sometimes, there is even something to gain, and the accusation is made for the complainant’s own personal benefit.
A lawyer can help make sense of the accusation against you as well as the factors present in the allegation.
What is sexual assault in Canada?
Generally, assault in Canada, as defined by section 265(1) of the Criminal Code, is the intentional application of force to someone without their consent. Section 265(2) states that this definition applies to all forms of assault, including sexual assault. Therefore, sexual assault, specifically, is when the non-consensual force violates the sexual integrity of the victim. It can be as simple as unwanted touching of a sexual nature. This type of sexual assault is also classified as “level 1” sexual assault.
There are also more serious forms of sexual assault, such as sexual assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm, which is listed under section 272 of the Criminal Code (also known as “level 2” sexual assault). In addition, there is aggravated sexual assault, which is listed under section 273, and it involves a sexual assault that results in the wounding, maiming, disfiguring, or endangering the life of the victim (“level 3” sexual assault).
How many sexual assault cases are false?
Unfortunately, false accusations of sexual assault do happen. In 2019, in Norfolk County, Ontario, the CBC reported that a complainant was charged with public mischief, because she blatantly made a false report to police. But only a very small number of these cases make the news.
According to Statistics Canada, 14% of all sexual assaults reported to police in Canada in 2017 were unfounded. That is 3,900 false sexual assault allegations. In 2019, one in ten reported “level 1” sexual assaults were deemed to not have happened or even attempted. In fact, “level 1” sexual assaults are the basis for the most unfounded claims, because there is no need for any physical evidence. Each one of those allegations takes a significant toll on the accused, as well as police and judicial resources.
What should I do after being accused of sexual assault?
As you can imagine, false sexual assault charges can be extremely difficult to navigate on your own. These cases often become situations where it is one person’s word against the other. The whole process can be life-altering. It can affect your entire life, from personal to professional relationships. You need someone who can vindicate you; someone who can save your reputation. Ultimately, you need someone by your side who can advocate for you… and who can effectively advocate for the truth and bring it to light.
If the complainant alludes to a making an allegation or they tell you that they will be speaking to the police about it, you should call a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. If you are arrested, you should also exercise your right to speak to a lawyer when the police provide that opportunity. It seems natural that you would want to clear your name and provide your side of the story; you may also think that if you explain, the police will see right through the accusation, and they will see your innocence. The justice system does not work that way. It is rarely in your interest to make any statements to the police, and it is always in your interest to contact a lawyer.
A lawyer can help guide you through the steps in the judicial process and successfully defend you against false sexual assault allegations. For more information, contact our team.