Some 98% of reported assaults on women are alleged to be by men. Four in ten Australians (42%) think sexual assault accusations by women are a way of getting back at men.^ Almost the same proportion (43%) believe women “make up” claims of abuse when going through child custody battles in court.
Yet research shows false allegations are rare. In fact, sexual assault, harassment and domestic violence are statistically said to be under-reported to police.
Aside from the national statistics, at Criminal Lawyer Perth I take instructions from men accused of sexually assaulting women. These men say that the accusation is false and the complainant is lying. As a defence lawyer my job along with my team is to take my client’s instructions and develop the defence case. In the process I do not take anything said, including our client’s instructions, on face value, further research is required.
The first question I ask is my client is why would the complainant lie about being sexually assaulted depends? The answer depends upon a number of factors and I must add these factors go back some 30 + years when I studied criminology in my sociology major at university.
For example, the propensity to lie about being sexually assaulted depends for example, on the age of the complainant, relationship to the accused and time frame, ethnicity, religious factors, personality traits of the complainant.
The specific reasons for lying as found in my practice are:
- Revenge – where the accused has supposedly hurt, humiliated or embarrassed the complainant particularly in front of complainant’s friends or family member or on social media.
- To create excitement to get attention – create a following of sympathisers, wanting to hurt the accused – loss of job – ability to earn income, respect, reputation – social media has supercharged this area
- Access to accused property real and chattels (particularly in marriage situations) sole custody of children, household savings and finances.
- To avoid punishment – deflect or shift the blame/cause a distraction
- Pure money – Criminal injuries compensation few cases of bribes – give me an IPhone or I’ll go to police.
We see these motivations emerging from our extensive conferences with our clients in preparing for trial. Events that happen between the complainant and accused over time, most often in family settings, hint that something is not right with what the complainant is saying. The reason for our clients to say that the complainant is lying most often falls into one or more of the above categories.
Once the motivation to lie is identified, we can then build the defence case. It is important to point out that the reasons why a complainant lies about being sexually assaulted emerges from the instruction our client instructions, primarily around the history of the complainant and the accused and the particulars/details of the history.
^ National Community Attitudes Survey (NCAS) on violence against women.