US: National Survey of False Allegations of Abuse

In May 2011 Stop Abusive and Violent Environments conducted the first-ever national survey of false allegations of abuse. The survey defined “abuse” to include child abuse, domestic violence, or sexual abuse.

Telephone calls were placed to 10,000 households around the country. The survey purpose and methods are described here.

The survey had a 23% response rate, which is slightly higher than the 15-20% rate that computer-activated surveys of this sort typically experience.

These are the highlights:

  • Over 15% of the respondents personally knew someone who has been falsely accused
  • 81% of the falsely accused persons were male
  • Nearly 70% of the accusers were female
  • In over a quarter of the cases – 26% –  the accusation was made as part of a child custody dispute
  • 11% of respondents said they themselves had been falsely accused of abuse

Due to the survey’s reliance on voter registration records and its response rate, it is necessary to exercise caution in generalizing the survey findings to the national population as a whole. The actual percentage may be higher or lower than the survey findings. Future surveys are needed to confirm the results of this study.

Following are the detailed results:

Question Percent  Responding “Yes” Percent  Responding “No”
1. Have you ever heard of anyone falsely accused of abuse? 48.4% 51.6%
2. Has anyone you know ever been falsely accused of abuse? 15.5% 84.5%
3. Was this person falsely accused of child abuse?* 74.0% 26.0%
4. Was this person falsely accused of domestic violence?* 28.9% 71.1%
5. Was this person falsely accused of sexual abuse?* 48.5% 51.5%
6. Was this person falsely accused in the last year? 17.7% 82.3%
7. Was the falsely accused  person a male? 81.0% 19.0%
8. Was the accuser a female? 69.9% 30.1%
9. Was the accusation made as part of a child custody dispute? 25.8% 74.2%
10. Have you been falsely accused? 11.0% 89.0%
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