I found the website of Allen Cowling, a man who’s spent the last 20-some years helping those that have been falsely accused or convicted of Sexual Assault of a Child prepare their case or appeal.
There is a ton of information available at his site, and I highly recommend it. He’s not a lawyer or a psychologist, only someone with a great deal of experience in this narrow field. Here are a few things I found interesting:
False allegations do grow and they grow many times because a child believes that they must keep refreshing, or adding to their story to be believed and to keep the attention they are getting. The unfortunate thing is that the "professionals" who deal with these children are not looking for the truth, just information to validate the allegation.
Coy said he was first accused, in the mysteriously un-recorded first interview, of touching the Jane Doe’s privates. But the equipment wasn’t functioning that day, and the first written statement from an outcry witness, which could have nailed down exactly what the girl said happened, was tossed out.
After this failed interview, the family was sent home. There was no tape, no documentation of her claims at the first interview, no medical records or physical evidence. Everything was still up in the air. They could change what had been said, what had happened; once they had a story they liked, they could rehearse it with her, but first she would have had to produce something bad enough for the DA to file charges.
Mr. Cowling writes in detail how charges like this are built from nothing:
In some cases, after the child has said "yes," the mother may push for details or may take the child to a counselor, human services or a local police department, but whoever she takes the child to, depend on the fact that the mother will do the initial talking. If she does take the child to the police, the mother will tell the detective what she was told and normally, at that point, in everyone's mind, including the detective, the child was molested and indeed, is a victim. Once the detective completes his interview with the mother, he/she may interview the child. At this point, carefully consider the psychology of what is taking, or about to take place. Most children are told the "police" are good, are there to protect them, but never lie to a policeman. Here is the child, talking to a detective, well meaning or not, who already has a preconceived opinion and the child has been brought up not to lie to the police. At that point, the child may reason, "Well, I have to tell him what I told mama," so they repeat the allegation. The problem is, usually the detective will want more details than the child's mother did, so the child begins to provide them. Why? Because the detective is all but in tears, something the child may easily see as positive support and something that gives a clear message to the child that they can say just about whatever they want.
What went on in the child’s home between interviews? Was she being asked constantly if she wanted to talk about it? Asked if she was hiding anything? Was anything suggested to her? Was she encouraged to embellish the story to keep her parents and the police interested?
Of course there’s no way to know, but if her parents believed that she had been assaulted I’m sure that it would have been hard to talk about anything else. In what ways did this discussion change her story?
The key to breaking down a false allegation, as is discussed in other areas of this website, is to carefully analyze every statement a child has made, and compare each individual allegation against the other. For the most part, a description of real abuse remains constant where a false allegation tends to change like the wind.
Coy talked about how the girl’s version of events changed from the criminal trial to the civil trial…From a five minute assault to ‘just a second’. How the credibility the prosecution enjoyed during the first trial was blown away in Civil Court, when his lawyer was allowed to talk about her background and her home life, to bring some much needed context into the discussion of her medical problems.
Finding this website was a big deal for me, not just because he outlines his strategy in detail for those that cannot afford his services, but because it shows that someone else out there sees what we do; that a false conviction in this type of case is not only possible, but likely. It happens, because of lawyerly incompetence, inherent jury bias, and police and prosecutors who are more than willing to help shore up a weak story in order to ‘get the bad guy’.
If you have a few hours to spare, read a few of the pages below. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything…the situation is dire, the task time-consuming. But in the end it gives me hope that we can prevail against the corruption.