False allegations are extremely rare in cases of sexual assault against children, but they do happen, according to Yvonne Aronson, director of the New Day Shelter in Ashland.
For a young child to have fabricated a story about sexual abuse would probably require manipulation by an adult or older sibling, Aronson
said, as children are typically not capable of premeditating a false allegation.
"I can't imagine a four year old making up a story like that," Aronson
A victim recanting their story is more common, but Aronson
said that does not always mean the allegation in untrue.
"When people recant, it's typically because they fear repercussions," Aronson
said."They recant because to go through the whole court process can be extremely overwhelming emotionally.Sometimes it's easier just to say 'I don't want to go through this.'"
Midge Montano, a counselor and advocate at the New Day Shelter
, said children are naturally truthful at a certain age and trust parents and other adult caregivers to believe what they say.
Sexual abuse is the worst kind of violation in this trust between a child and adult, Montano said, because a person's sexuality is something so personal.
added that the perpetrator will do anything they can to keep the child from coming forward with allegations, as they do not want to stop the abusive relationship.
"When a child is being sexually abused, there tends to be a game going on between the perpetrator and the child, and oftentimes the child is threatened that 'if you tell someone I am going to hurt your mom or your dad,'" Aronson
said."So, for a child to share that information I think is real commendable.It takes a lot of courage."
In cases where the child's father, stepfather or the mother's boyfriend is involved, Aronson
said the mother will sometimes be in denial about the allegations, and will react by blaming the child.
"That is extremely devastating to the child because they are going to an adult, disclosing, and hoping to be safe," Aronson
said."Then the child internalizes it as them doing something wrong."
The child starts to feel guilty when someone they trust does not want to believe them, Montano said, especially when that adult is supposed to be their caregiver.
Confusion also arises when the child becomes stimulated even though they know the behavior is wrong, Aronson
said, but the problem lies in the fact that children are incapable of making decisions like that, Montano added.
Even into their teenage years, juveniles are not emotionally equipped to make decisions about sexual contact, Montano said, and perpetrators will manipulate their victims into feeling as though the behavior is acceptable.
Anyone who suspects child molestation or hears an allegation should realize that the perpetrator may seem harmless or even caring toward the child, Montano said.
"I think people need to keep in mind that many times perpetrators know their victims and they do appear nice, kind, and loving," Montano said."Because they are naturally trying to form a relationship with that child."
False memory syndrome, in which fabricated events and images are implanted in a person's mind, is a concern for counselors, Aronson
said, but most of the time they find that even memories that have been repressed for 20 or more years are true. Aronson
said the New Day Shelter
has come a long way in shedding light on the problem of sexual abuse in the area, noting that many cases went unreported in the past, when this type of crime was never discussed publicly.
Nearly every time the New Day counselors go into a classroom to talk about reporting sexual abuse, Aronson
said they have had at least one child come forward with a story of being molested.
And as counselors, Aronson
and Montano said they must always trust that their clients are telling them the truth.
"It's real important that we believe them," Aronson
said."Otherwise, there would be another betrayal.It would be like, 'Why should I disclose, if no one is going to believe me?'"