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If you are considering making an accusation:
If you suspect physical or sexual child abuse and you are considering making an allegation or accusation, you have much to consider. This is not legal advice. If you suspect real abuse, you should seriously think about seeking competent legal advice and consider an investigator of such cases. Following are some of the legal and others considerations. Only a lawyer can advise you legally on your exact situation.
To consider or acquire legal advice, you should educate yourself, possibly talk to a professional investigator with experience and knowledge of these matters (they may report it) and use checklists to possibly acquire and manage a good lawyer.
As already mentioned, real or even false allegations can result in many severe impacts upon everyone involved and even those not involved. Repeating from the previous page:
You must realize this is often a very serious, life-changing matter that may result in someone serving many years in prison, ruined marriages, potential violent or hidden revenge, destroyed families and relationships, angry ex-friends, high legal and financial costs, inability to find employment, years or lifetime of registration as a sexual offender who may be targeted by anyone. There are severe emotional costs and worry involved FOR YEARS. However a real child victim deserves help and you are obligated to protect them from harm.
Not only criminal but civil cases and costs may result from allegations. The word of a single person may cause these severe results, even if untrue. The word of a minor may be presumed to be true in a court unless proven untrue. At early stages of a case, interviews, testing and polygraphs (lie detector) may be involved for all parties (you too). There are risks even that a polygraph examiner may misread your chart or perform the exam incorrectly. It is imperative you have a competent, intelligent examiner chosen by you.
Anything you do or say should be taken very seriously and only after serious thinking or consultation with an expert and likely a lawyer and after much self-education, unless you are the victim of real abuse, in which case you may need to report this to a trusted person who will help you through such situation. Much help is available for victims.
This article is not intended for actual abuse victims who require professional assistance and counseling. Many web sites and support organizations exist for victims of abuse.
If you are not the victim and you suspect abuse and have at least the word of a person with first hand or near first hand knowledge as well as some evidence, such as major behavioral change, inappropriate behaviors, and hopefully other evidence, then you may wish to consider reporting this or at least investigating more. It is much better if you and some other person directly observed the abuse.
However, you need to be well-informed and educated about child development and behaviors that may simply be developmental. For example, major hormonal changes at puberty in adolescents can cause major behavioral changes and extreme behaviors, particularly emotional instability and rebellion. If this allegation came up just after some big family fight when a teenager is showing much rebellion and statements about hating living at home, that may suggest other possibilities, as some teens have made false accusations in anger. Therefore, you should educate yourself and seek the advice of an expert. However, unless you have at least the word of someone or observed inappropriate or unusual behavior by the accused and perhaps the victim, or other evidence, you should be aware that professional counselors and educators are required by law in most states to report virtually any suspected child abuse.
A false child abuse allegation can also greatly affect the life of the victim, especially if there is no evidence and the possibility that the victim may not want to testify or may fail a polygraph or other exam. A competent investigative company can help educate you and provide checklists regarding what to expect if the accused mounts a strong defense and the victim is weak, unstable or afraid, which is not unusual.
It is always a good idea to be careful and brief and mostly ask questions when discussing such matters unless you have some strong indication or some evidence that actual abuse has occurred. These are legal matters and a lawyer should be consulted if it appears this matter will become a formal charge or civil case.
You need expert advice and suggestions and checklists in preparing for making accusations and to be aware of how you may be investigated. You also need suggestions and checklists on how to choose and deal with a lawyer from people with experience and knowledge. You further should do research and self education as much as possible.
Criminal cases can arise from civil cases, and vice versa. There can be so many costs, financial , emotional and otherwise that you must not take these matters lightly or make false accusations.
If you make an unfounded or false accusation, be prepared to be investigated, tested, sued for large sums of money, possibly criminally charged with perjury possibly resulting in prison time of years. Consider the possibility that some people react poorly to having their reputation ruined or to serving years in prison after going $50,000 into debt for legal expenses. That means some people may seek revenge in ominous ways. Only you can be the judge of that, but the background (background checks) of an accused may reveal tendencies to violence or revenge.
You may be legally obligated to report evidence or statements alleging child abuse. This is particularly true if you are an educator, institutional guardian or caregiver, or counselor.
Be aware that some authorities may over-react to weak evidence or inadvertent mentioning of possibilities, where other authorities may fail to follow up entirely to strong accusations. It is not uncommon in some jurisdictions that sexual child abuse allegations may be given little real attention. You should consider investigating the reputation of the law enforcement organization. A professional investigative firm can assist in these matters.
Abuse may be physical, emotional, sexual, or combinations of these. It is not uncommon for an abuser to be an expert at manipulation. They may try to use guilt or ridicule or even act extremely sorry until risk to them subsides. Investigation of the accused for such behaviors can give insight into how the perpetrator may be able to avoid prosecution. If the victim recants or retracts or denies the accusations, the case is likely ended and you will likely be sued.
Emotional abuse may be extremely difficult to prove, and criminal charges are unlikely for such forms of abuse unless there is strong evidence of severely damaging actions. However, you should seek legal advice on such matter, as we can not offer legal advice.
Prosecutors are extremely unlikely to bring charges or seek an indictment, or may even drop charges in many situations. You need expert advice and checklists to understand these situations.
Criminal charges mostly likely require the sworn statement of the accuser and others. Be aware that you must tell the truth, or you may be subject to criminal prosecution and jail time of years for perjury. Before you testify or make a statement, it is likely advisable to have carefully selected a lawyer and know how to handle a lawyer, which most people do not. One mis-spoken statement can easily be interpreted later as not exactly what you meant to say.
You should read about the numerous large cases of suspected sexual abuse in some day care centers. Several of these have been widely publicized and then found to be near completely false after ruining the lives of numerous people. Although it is known that some predators will seek positions which bring them into contact with children or teenagers, any allegations should be considered carefully. Check with your care giver that there is supervision and multiple persons on duty at all times.
Be aware that some children or minors are easily influenced and imaginative and "leading" questions can ultimately ruin a real case of abuse. This area should be explored with a knowledgeable investigator and is mentioned in checklists about such cases.
If you suspect a case of rape, you may be faced with difficult decisions, but you are likely legally obligated to report it or to seek attention for the victim, particularly if there is a claim by the victim or other evidence. You may wish to call a rape crisis number anonymously to seek advice of experts. Legal definitions of rape may be different than you think. It is wise to seek competent legal advice.
Particularly in such cases, a careful investigation by a private investigator may assist in determining if the accused has had any such tendencies or even whether the accused may have other behavior or statements that you should know.
In summary, accusations of child abuse must consider all the above and more. It is an extremely serious matter legally and otherwise. You should make yourself aware of all the implications and possible repercussions. Ultimately, any harmed child is worth the price to protect and to protect future others from a real abuser.