“I didn’t do it!”: Protecting yourself against false sexual assault accusations

How many times have you read an article in a newspaper or seen a report on television about a sexual assault and assumed that the facts relayed therein are true? In fact, a sizable number of such reports turn out not to be true. The following is an example:

Case example

As reported in portwashingtonwi.patch, in 2012, a 25-year-old Milwaukee woman who falsely accused a Port Washington man of sexual assault faced charges for her accusations. According to the criminal complaint, the woman told police she had met a man in a parking lot to exchange a young child whom they shared custody of. The woman said that the man, on that occasion and a number of times thereafter, forced his hands down her pants and touched her genitals.

The police then arrested the man, who claimed that nothing had happened on the first occasion and that consensual sex had happened on the subsequent occasions. The woman denied the man’s allegations, but video surveillance from the parking lot supported the man’s story. When confronted by the existence of the video, the woman admitted to consensual sex.


One of the most controversial disputes is that over the frequency of false allegations of sexual assault. In a study in 2010, all cases of sexual assault reported to a major northeastern university over a 10-year period were analyzed to determine the percentage of false allegations. Of the 136 cases reported, eight (5.9 percent) were judged to be false allegations. These results, when examined in the context of previous research, indicated that the frequency of false allegations was between 2 percent and 10 percent, which may not sound to be a great number, but which can make a great difference if you are one of the people who falls into this category.

What to do if you are falsely accused

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sexual assault crime that you did not commit, it can be a devastating experience. We all think that the legal system guarantees that we won’t be falsely convicted, but unfortunately, as demonstrated above, false accusations are more common than we think. So what should you do? The following are some suggestions:

  • Secure the services of a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
  • Realize the importance of false accusations. Do not assume that because the charges are false, you do not need to deal with them.
  • Prepare for the costs of your defense. Expert witnesses may be necessary, special psychological tests may be required, and other evidence may need to be collected.
  • Document your case. Write down as many details as possible about your case, whether or not you consider them important.
  • Educate yourself. Many sources, including the internet, provide information about criminal offenses, your rights and the legal system.
  • Compile a list of possible witnesses.
  • Know your rights. If you are questioned by police, you are not required to say anything. You are also guaranteed the right to competent legal representation by the U.S. Constitution. Learn to protect and maximize your rights.

See our Criminal Defense Results for cases that have been dismissed due to our aggressive representation.

Nicholson Goetz & Otis, S.C., cannot practice law outside the state of Wisconsin.

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