False Reports of Child Sexual Abuse are Uncommon, and Denial Can Be Deadly To Both Victim and Perpetrator

Research shows that even when heavily prompted by adults, children give very few false reports of sexual abuse.

In one study, child subjects were given 215 opportunities to make a false claim but they did not.

The U.S. Dept of Justice says the majority of children don’t lie about abuse, and that it is common and more likely that children lie in order to protect the one who is abusing them.

The amount of false reports would logically remain about the same for adults because of their intelligent discrimination. Adults might even be more likely to conceal the abuse (or to repress it) in order to retain the apple pie image of their parents. Children are often more honest.

Vehement Denial by a Perpetrator Can Be Directly Linked to Deceit

Those who deny the accusations of child sexual abuse often say that when the accused shows passionate denial, or when they ask for the charges to be investigated, and request a lie detector test….then they must be innocent.

[Image: johnGeo-1.jpg]

The case of Father John J. Geoghan gives a perfect example of how a guilty person can fervently deny their crimes. Prior to 1984, Father Geoghan had been seen by mental health professionals numerous times and was hospitalized once for molesting boys.

Geoghan had been removed from different parishes for child sexual abuse and Geoghan “casually” admitted to abusing several young boys. In 1989 he spent time in two facilities which help priests with pedophilic tendencies and another priest later admitted that he saw Geoghan taking boys to his bedroom at the rectory.

The archdiocese recorded an abundance of evidence that Geoghan was a child molester, including an admission in 1980. Geoghan said his problem with young boys had not been a “serious” one.

There has been no argument by the archdiocese that John Geoghan molested children after 1962 while at one parish, and Cardinal Bernard F. Law stated that he knew about Geoghan’s acts of molestation. 4 More than 130 people came forward accusing Father John J. Geoghan of child sexual abuse, and in 2002, Father Geoghan was found guilty of molesting a ten-year old boy.

No doubt can remain that Geoghan was a child molester. Yet, the former priest has expressed the same kind of denial which is often heard by people accused of child sexual abuse.

In March of 1997, Geoghan proclaimed, “I have never engaged in sex with anyone. I have never been touched sexually by anyone. I would be willing to take a lie detector test.” Geoghan had already admitted in 1980 that he had sexually abused seven children and he had been diagnosed as a pedophile by facilities that treat sex offenders.

Letters found in court papers, written by Geoghan to other priests during the 1980’s and 1990’s, depict a man who was out of touch with reality. He spoke of being falsely accused, alienated, and abandoned by other clerics for ‘no apparent reason.’

Geoghan wrote that he was in shock over being considered a child molesting pedophile and could not believe what he perceived as an injustice against him.

People accused of child sexual abuse say they cannot comprehend the charges against them. They deny ever hurting children, and are offended if told they are in denial. Geoghan mimics them exactly in this statement he made about being accused of sexual abuse, ”What hurts the most is being told by non professionals `you’re in denial’…”

Geoghan’s statements provide strong evidence that passionate denial, being shocked about accusations, cries of injustice, and asking for a lie detector test are no proof that the child was not sexually abused.

People accused of all different things -not just child abuse- act as though they are suffering, even if they are guilty. Self-pity, self-survival, and pure selfishness can cause this perceived suffering.

While serving his sentence for molesting a ten year-old boy, John Geoghan was murdered in prison by another inmate. The man who killed Geoghan says he had been sexually abused as a child and admitted this was his motive for the murder.

The man’s ability to kill a child abuser, who did not harm him personally, shows how much rage a survivor can carry with them if child sexual abuse is not sufficiently dealt with.


Leadership Council for Mental Health, Justice, and the Media, Aug 15 02, Recovered Memories: True or False?

Saywitz, Goodman, Nicholas, & Mona, 1991

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Washington, D.C. June 1999

The Boston Globe, A1, January 16 2002

Trial Begins for Priest Accused of Molestation Los Angeles Times A-12 January 15 2002

In letters, Geoghan showed self in denial, The Boston Globe, A1, January 25 2002, Matt Carroll, Globe Staff

Druce: I Killed Geoghan for the Children, Former Priest Murdered in Prison, Posted: 1:17 p.m. EDT September 12, 2003, Updated 5:06 p.m. EDT September 12, 2003, The Boston Channel

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32 Responses to False Reports of Child Sexual Abuse are Uncommon, and Denial Can Be Deadly To Both Victim and Perpetrator

  1. JAN/jag says:

    Yes you are right adults do lie more than children and that’s where the children get it from ! I have experienced “both sides” of this discussion I was not believed as a child and was made to keep quiet about it! But now a family friend has been falsely accused and I can see the devastion this has caused his family n friends! It is a very complex society we live in and it depends on whom you talk to as to how they deal with these situations! I, unlike you met a wonderful and had children but made sure they were kept from harm! It makes you very very protective over them even at18 & 16 I am still insistent on them letting me know what they are doing when ! I think this “hard to let go” attitude from me is def stemming from my own childhood exp! Take care

  2. manuela says:

    I wonder … how can a child can “fantasize” about a thing that in real life he/she shouldn’t have know a thing about it? And the mature persons to realize that the “fantasies” correspond to the reality? How?

    I believe that the probability for the children to “fantasize” about sex is equal with my theories about “how’s life” on Andromeda’s galaxy (I don’t have studies in that domain) – to be TRUE.

  3. Alethea says:

    “K” has been officially banned from posting here. “K” offers no value to this Blog, or to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

    You are right “K,” I don’t have children, but I was once a child, and that gives me first-hand experience. I would have preferred that someone try and help my rapist father and my mother to be good parents, than for someone else to become a surrogate parent to me. I LOVED my parents, and the child in me still loves them because they are were my flesh and blood. There is an emotional and physiological tie between parents and their children that can not be found with any other human being.

    And you are wrong. Adults lie MORE than children do. Adults lie all day long. They lie to themselves and to others in many different ways. Children are honest with themselves and often tell the truth to adults -even when the adults don’t want to hear the truth.

    • little nel says:

      Great responses Alethea!

      I agree that adults lie more than children do. Adults have more reasons to lie than children. Many times adults resent the honesty of their children because their honesty reveal things that they don’t want to acknowledge.

      I was not believed because the adult listener did not want to acknowledge the abuse. If they acknowledged the abuse then they were obligated to help the victim. If help isn’t forthcoming, then the victim does not feel worthy of protection and love. I felt defective, unwanted and alone when I was not believed.

      • astute observation Nel

      • Alethea says:

        Thanks Little Nel. I don’t know what “K” was hanging around on my Blog for. It began to be a case of ‘me thinks thou protesteth too much.’

        “K” needs to stop complaining and, and needs to look at her role in the matter, and needs to take action somewhere else. She needs to DO something, not moan and whine on a Blog about real cases of sexual abuse, and a Blog where people who read these articles and comments were told as children that they were liars when they were being sexually brutalized by adults.

        “Many times adults resent the honesty of their children because their honesty reveal things that they don’t want to acknowledge.”

        Amen to that.

        • Alethea says:

          Due to a comment that “K” has tried to submit (I won’t approve it because it might trigger someone pretty badly), I have decided that “K” might actually be a child sexual abuser, or pedophile.

          “K,” just so you know, I have worked on healing myself for many years, and your malicious attempt at trying to hurt me emotionally…failed. I have worked long and hard to not be affected by people like you, and it’s good to know my therapy has paid off. Thanks for the validation that I am healed.

          Unless you enjoy wasting your time “K,” you might want to stop trying to post a comment here. Your comments will now be unread, and I will no longer refer to your comments AT ALL.

          I hope you find peace and truth, and make more room in your heart for love.

  4. little nel says:

    Hi K, your issues are with the CPS. It’s the adults who work in that agency who made your life a living hell.

    I wonder why your neighbor called CPS instead of alerting you to the problem.

    • K says:

      Of course I have issues with CPS. That’s a given. But the point is 3 boys all told very tall tales. Not one but 3. And that’s not an anomaly. Trust me when I say I have heard countless stories like mine. I really believe the problem is the overall sexualization of children from every aspect of our society. This incident with my son occurred at the exact time Clinton was being impeached. The tv was round clock “oral sex” in every home and every the conversations were all about oral sex and sex in general
      And kids across the country were exposed to it nonstop.

    • K says:

      I also want to stress here that I was totally kind to those boys…very charitable and Patient. In fact they saw me as a surrogate mom since their own mom was not around. And they still lied about me. It can happen to anyone.

      • Alethea says:

        Maybe you should have helped those boy’s parents to be better parents, instead of trying to be their surrogate mother. Maybe you ought to take it as a lesson to not do that when children have a mother and a home. Every child -no matter how much their parents neglect or abuse them- deserves to be given the chance (and they WANT the chance) to be with their mothers. Most children love their parents, no matter what they have done to them.

        Were the boys being sexually or physically abused by the parents? Did you go to the authorities? Did you try to help them in ways that would unite them with their family, instead of trying to replace their family?

        Yes, there are many cases of false accusations, but don’t assume that just because YOU were falsely accused, that the other people you know of, or met, or spoken, with were also innocent.

        Please consider finding another Blog to post your issues on. Many people who read this Blog were severely sexually abused as children and some of your posts can trigger them into psychological or physical problems because many of them were not believed as a children, or called liars.

        I am giving you fair warning that I might not approve your messages anymore.

  5. little nel says:

    I think that the biggest obstacle for children is how to tell the truth with a limited vocabulary. Children are limited by the words that they don’t know.

    “He hurt my pee pee” is about all a toddler or pre-schooler can say about being sexually abused.

    “We were playing a tickling game” or “Who wants to be the first one to take off their pants and I wanted to be first” is what a first grader might say.

    I knew that something was amiss when the perp asked me to keep “it” a secret.

    I did not know that I had been sexually abused until I hit puberty and started talking about sex with my peers. The pain and shame kept me quiet for years.

  6. manuela says:

    I have a question – it is possible for the man who killed the priest to be moved from prison to prison in order to do a real good service to society?

    • little nel says:

      Hi Manuela,
      I love your thinking and input about this issue! “A real good service to society” is what happened in this instance when the perp was killed in jail.

  7. K says:

    As someone who was falsely accused I can tell you it is NOT uncommon! Children DO lie and often the reasons are totally unclear.

    • Alethea says:

      I DID NOT say children don’t lie. I am NOT saying that some children have not been coaxed, confused, or coerced into making false accusations. But do not take your experience and try to turn the statistics around in your favor. The vast majority of accusations are true, and some people are indeed falsely accused.

      You might want to change your comment to “SOME” children do lie.

      • K says:

        Take a look at the Fells Acres case. Or the many divorce cases where kids are prompted to lie and do by a bitter spouse. Kids lie alllll the time.

        • Alethea says:

          This Blog is not about the small number of children who have been coerced into lying, or who have been confused by adults. As I said, I am well aware that some children have falsely accused people of sexual abuse, just like some adults have falsely accused people of child sexual abuse and of adult rape. This does not mean that all cases of child sexual abuse or adult rape are false! Nor does it even mean that most are. Most accusations are true.

          I am not going to argue with you. If you don’t like the facts, then maybe you ought to find a blog that fits your idea of things (or your agenda).

          • little nel says:

            The ones who falsely accuse are people who have something to gain by lying…like custody and child support. They usually do it when the child is too young to testify or deny the abuse.

            Children have nothing to gain by lying unless they are intimidated to recant. More children recant about the abuse than falsely accuse.

            • K says:

              Let me fill you all in on my story before you continue with your delusional statements that kids don’t lie and always try to tell the truth as best they can and that only “little kids” are coerced into making false statements. These are ALL misconceptions and blatant lies. And my case is NOT rare, it happens all the time. The problem is neither the media nor CPS report these cases because A. they are not sensational and B. they usually magnify problems within CPS and the way they handle these reports.

              In the summer of 1999 I was 27 years old, heavily pregnant with my second child and living in suburbia Michigan. I am a reasonably attractive woman with no criminal history at all. My 8 year old son fell into a group of young and unsupervised boys in our neighborhood, ages 7,9 and 11. I felt bad for these boys and would often feed them, offer them hand me downs and allow them to play for hours on end in our backyard with my son. One day, a neighbor spotted the boys playing “show me yours and I will show you mine” in our backyard. Rather than come tell ME, they reported it to the police. Why? I will never, ever know. Once the police were involved CPS was brought in..to figure out WHY these boys were showing one another their penises. Like…this is the first time in history little boys played this game, right? So the 3 brothers were brought in first for questioning, since when the report was made we were out of town. The 3 brothers, whom I have stated were unsupervised and at times unruly, decided it would be “fun” to turn the tables against themselves and on to an adult. I don’t know, maybe they figured they were in trouble (and wouldn’t you if the cops were staring at you and some social worker was pressuring you for answers) and if they blamed it on an adult they wouldn’t get into trouble. The logical person to blame (since I was the main adult around when they were at my home) was ME. These kids fed these police officers and 2 social workers a whole menagerie of ridiculous stories. One claimed I invited him in, fed him mac and cheesed and invited him into my bedroom to kiss my vagina. Another claimed I stripped in front of him. And the eldest one claimed I invited them all in to watch pornos and show them porno mags while they played playstation. They further claimed that my son was also sexually molesting them and had learned it from ME!!!!! And 6 cops and 2 social workers sat there and found these boys credible. Before I even know what accusations had been made against me, CPS requested to interview my son…ALONE. My father, a retired USAF Colonel said absolutely NOT. So I did what my father told me to do…I refused. This only angered CPS that I as an American citizen, innocent of any crime and not accused of any crime, would not allow them access to my young child. So they got a court order and forcibly removed my son from my home. He was crying hysterically, I was crying hysterically and at the end of the day my son was traumatized for years and had to undergo therapy..as was I. All of this on the LIES and machinations of 3 young boys who I am sure had come across pornography all on their own and had turned their experiences around into a way to manipulate the system and sic a bunch of adults on each other. All the while the divorced parents of these boys are fighting over custody and using these false allegations against me in their own custody battle. (the boys lived with their father and the mother wanted custody). My son was given to my parents for a period of 3 months while CPS further investigated. I have reviewed the paperwork. My 8 year old son vehemently denied any sex abuse and stated that the boys were lying. The CPS workers back pedaled in their report and said “since there is such a size difference between the X child and the 3 brothers we are concerned their allegations are untrue”…my son was very slight and these others boys were larger and more street smart. They began to suspect that those 3 boys had in fact molested my son and not the other way around. They further began to suspect that those boys were molested and had LIED in order to protect their family members and shifted the blame onto a totally innocent person. Their lies nearly destroyed my life. I nearly lost my unborn child due to the stress. Thankfully, the magistrate on the case had the good sense to appoint a psychologist to interview all parties involved. My son and I showed up the very next day…the mother and father and 3 boys? Took weeks and weeks of hemming and hawing before they showed up. Meanwhile I am approaching my due date and forced to live without my precious son whom I loved and wanted to be a part of the birth of his sister and welcoming her home. The psychologist deemed the boys were LYING and had made all of the stories up. The magistrate dismissed the case and a week before my daughter was born my family was back together. But my case is NOT uncommon. Because of my experience I have met countless dozens of other people like myself who were railroaded by CPS, vindictive spouses, deceitful and screwed up kids and many of them did not get lucky as I did to have their cases straighted out within months. Many spend years and years and thousands of dollars trying to clean their good names. Children DO lie. Heck, my kids lie to me all the time!!! My son, now 20 is serving in the United States Navy….even now he isn’t always truthful with me on some issues. This is called immaturity. I shrug it off because usually the consequences are not dire. But when a kid lies (and trust me they do) to the police or to social workers the consequences can be dire and trust me if it happened to you, as it did to me, you would not be thinking it was a rare event and you would scream your innocence from the rooftops and hope that open minds prevail and the people looking at your case don’t take this black and white attitude that kids are always truthful in matters like this.

              • litle nel says:

                I’m sorry to hear that you had so much drama. How do you know that those boys lied on their own?

                It sounds as if someone prompted them? Maybe an angry parent who wanted to share their misery with some one else by spreading the blame?

              • K says:

                There was evidence in the case file that their mother’s boyfriend (a police officer in another county) was prompting them and telling them what to say) but I guess I will never know. That said, my child who was younger than two of those boys told the truth. He knew to tell the truth…and yet the older boys deliberately lied. One of them was 11. I can remember being 11…I can tell you I would never have accused an adult of sexual abuse simply because one of my parent’s was telling me to. But then, I was raised to take responsibility for myself and to have integrity, as anyone raised by a colonel in the military can attest to. All I can say is, those children lied and why I will most likely never know. The point is that they did lie and they aren’t unique or uncommon. As I said, because of my ordeal, back in the 2000, and 2001 up until around 2005 I ran many websites and blogs which encouraged people to come forward with their own stories of terrorism and power abuse by CPS. My story, sadly, is NOT rare. So many people and families have been destroyed by CPS in every state. Many, many children have lied about sex abuse either on their own or when prompted by angry spouses or grandparents. Children are not inherently honest. It has been my experience that children will often choose to lie rather than tell the truth in instances where they are concerned they will get in some sort of trouble. This is just normal child behavior…kids know to protect their own butts. I am in no way shape or form condemning kids for this. But honesty is something kids have to be taught to appreciate, most don’t come by it naturally. As I said, read the Fells Acres case…it is a nightmare of epic proportions. That said, please do not think I belittle any claims by children which are true. Since my son was most likely abused by the older of the 3 brothers, I am also a strong advocate for children who have been abused. I just get tired of the misconceptions (i.e kids don’t lie) because these blatant generalities do nothing to solve the problem of true sex abuse or abuse of power by CPS as regards false statements and inappropriate interviewing techniques and rushes to judgment.

              • Alethea says:


                Maybe your mistake was to allow the boys to spend so much time at your home. Maybe you ought to have taken different measures to try and help them. Maybe you ought to have focused solely on your unborn child and your son, and gone a different avenue with the boys that needed help.

                I don’t babysit or allow myself around kids for too long because this world is full of people who can falsely accuse at any time. There are no morals and no code of ethics in this day and age. Maybe you could have done what you did for the boys in another era, but not in the world we live in. The boys might also have hurt you or your unborn child.

                Many children these days are so severely abused, or brought up without any love….so they are attacking animals, other children, and sometimes adults.

                Our good intentions are not always what is best for our family, or for the people or children we try and help.

                I am sorry for your experience, but you also need to remember that CPS has failed many many children who were being sexually abused, or children who ended up dead. CPS is known for screwing up in both true, and false accusations of abuse.

                I am unsure why you are posting here. As I said, this Blog is not for a story like yours. You might want to find a website or Blog that will benefit your case and others like it. Or start your own Blog about false accusations. WordPress.com is free.


            • Alethea says:

              This is absolutely true Little Nel. MANY MANY more children recant accusations of REAL child sexual abuse, than there are children who lie about abuse.

  8. My experience with children, is they always try to to tell the truth when they are sincere. Not going to say there isnt communication problems, but for the most part, they tell the truth the best they can.

    • K says:

      Do you even have kids? I am going to go out on a limb here and say NO because if you had kids you would know kids LIE all the time. Did you never lie to your parents? To a teacher? Come on. Let’s all be real here. Kids lie, adults lie…we all tell lies from time to time. To make this blanket statement that kids “always” try to tell the truth is just ridiculous. Absurd.

      • little nel says:

        I have children and my children were taught morals and ethical principles in our home from a young age. My children did not lie about sexual abuse. My daughter caught a substitute teacher touching her friend inappropriately at her elementary school. She went right to the principle and reported it.

        She testified in court to what she saw. The county attorney was impressed by her truthfulness and her ability to relate what she saw on the witness stand. The offending teacher had priors that we found out about in court.

        • K says:

          Unfortunately not all children are raised to be truthful. Some kids grow up seeing their parents lie and they also lie. Some kids are just bad kids that like to stir up trouble or get revenge on adults. Kids are just as diverse as adults. It is shortsighted indeed to assume they are all truth telling little angels.

          • Survivor Sunshine says:

            I have two children and I have grown up surrounded by kids within a huge maternal extended family. I have over 100 first cousins. Yes, children lie but BECAUSE they were taught to lie! That is the KEY to the whole false accusation theory. Children are impressionable and unable to use the same analytical thought processes like an adult. In your tragic case of false accusation, I can infer that these boys were transferring true instances of abuse to you because they were finally getting the support and attention from some people in positions of authority. They, as well as you and your son, were also victims. In your pain, I think you have forgotten that and it has made your view of the fact children are ALWAYS victims of adults, and not the other way around, distorted. Children cannot abuse adults because any responsible, healthy adult will have the experience, responsibilty and foresight to handle the situation in the best manner for all parties involved. It really burns me up when adults transfer blame and responsibility onto children. Children are victimized, abused, tortured and even murdered by adults everyday. Their little voices are hardly ever heard or believed, unlike adults who have mastered the art of persuasion and manipulation. Your anger has been displaced onto these boys because your trust was violated. Please direct it toward all of the sick, twisted individuals who influenced these boys to falsely accuse you.

      • Alethea says:


        I have not read your lengthy story yet, but saw this comment and wanted to reply. If you want to continue to post here, PLEASE STOP MISQUOTING ME AND STOP USING BLACK AND WHITE THINKING (all or nothing).


        There are plenty of websites that deal with false accusations. NO, I do not have kids. My child sexual abusing father and his wife made sure I would never want children. I don’t need to have kids to know they lie. But I know that adults lie more than children do.

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