Let’s be honest; we’ve all watched the news or heard some juicy gossip and instantly thought, ‘Hey, isn’t this timing fishy? Can we really trust this allegation?’ Whether it’s spilling out in the middle of a custody dispute, popping up during some hot political campaign, or when someone is about to snag that promotion, the timing sometimes just seems too opportune.
For example, you’re watching a daytime court TV show, and a mother is accusing the father of their child of abuse amidst a fierce custody battle. It can be easy to think, ‘She’s just trying to get a leg up.’ But before you become Judge Judy, remember – the reality of child abuse is far messier than what gets neatly packaged for daytime TV, and the overwhelming majority of these sad stories are indeed true.
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), somewhere between 90% to 95% of child sexual abuse allegations are legitimate. That’s right, more likely than not, what’s being alleged is sadly, tragically true. Sometimes, abuse reports just surface at unusual or difficult times.
Now, imagine Joe from accounting is about to become the head honcho. Suddenly, whispers of wrongdoings start surfacing. You think, “Is this real, or someone’s sinister plot to snatch the promotion?” Here’s where it gets interesting. If those whispers become screams, the motive behind the allegation—at least in our eyes—becomes less important than the potential good that could arise from exposing a wrong and preventing further harm.
Motives for Allegations
You may ask yourself, “Shouldn’t we be skeptical?” We at Horowitz Law suggest that the best answer is NO. We should NOT. The bottom line here, friends, is this—let’s err on the side of trust. It’s easy, and often comfortable, to be the cynic, the doubter, especially when an abuse claim pops up at a peculiar time that doesn’t quite jive with our sense of ‘normal.’ But our default reaction should always be to view these allegations as far more likely true than not. After all, the hard numbers tell us that most of these allegations are true.
But let’s pause for a moment. Can we ever be 100% certain of our own motives, let alone someone else’s? Sure, we can presume, guess, and speculate, but that’s a murky water where biases have a pool party. So why not focus more on the even-handedness of justice rather than on guessing the intention behind someone’s actions?
A simple fact: The overwhelming majority of reports of child sexual abuse are indeed true.
According to a very reputable non-profit, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), research has shown that between 5% and 10% of child sexual abuse allegations are false. This means that the vast majority of allegations are true.” Notably, the number of false allegations is often disputed, and some experts believe it is much lower. Surely, some abuse accusations are made from spite, revenge, or other dishonorable motives. Our response is three-fold.
- No matter what someone may say, few of us act solely out of one and only one motive.
- Most times, few of us are fully aware of and fully understand our real motives.
- Most importantly, we at Horowitz Law maintain that, in the final analysis, the motive isn’t altogether that relevant. Put another way, we believe that, morally, one’s motive matters. Legally, however, it matters much less.
Can Good Come from Not-so-Good Motives?
This might be surprising, but yes, absolutely. Even if an action is driven by mixed, unclear, or less-than-ideal motives, it can still engender positive outcomes. Think about it—if a lawsuit over an accident helps a negligent company rethink its safety protocols, is that not good? If a suspiciously timed abuse claim leads a predator to justice and safeguards other potential victims, doesn’t that outweigh questioning the ‘why now’?
And this is important to remember: good can come from actions taken with even mixed, unclear, or less-than-ideal motives. A man may be OK with sitting on his abuse secret for decades. Then he learns that the assistant coach who hurt him is about to:
- be elevated to head coach
- get some award or recognition
- retire and is widely and warmly, and publicly praised by kids, parents, colleagues, and supervisors.
- The survivor may think, “Wow, with all these accolades, and with more time on his hands in retirement, with even more clout in his new position, this predator is about to become even more dangerous than he already is.”
Or it may not even be so rational a response. The survivor may simply feel, consciously or subconsciously, that – given this news – he simply can no longer stay silent. Let’s say you hear screams from your neighbor’s house one evening. Maybe you’ve suspected that the husband beats his wife. Maybe you don’t like the husband for that reason or some other reason. The screams continue. So you call 911.
Why? What’s your motive? You might think or assume you’re calling for help because you care about the woman and are afraid she’ll be severely hurt or even killed. Or maybe a small part of you is also calling because you feel like this jerk should finally face some consequences for this hurtful violence or other bad behavior. Can you really be sure your motives are ‘pure?’ Maybe. Maybe not. Regardless, calling 911 when you suspect someone is getting beaten is the right thing to do, and goodwill likely come off your phone call, no matter what exactly leads you to make it.
Think about it—if a lawsuit over an accident helps a negligent company rethink its safety protocols, is that not good? If a suspiciously timed abuse claim leads a predator to justice and safeguards other potential victims, doesn’t that outweigh questioning the ‘why now’?
So, if we can’t be 100% certain of why exactly we are taking some step, how on earth can we claim to be sure of another person’s motive? That’s especially true when we don’t know or haven’t even met that other person. And again, ultimately, other people’s motives are essentially unknowable and immaterial. Even someone who has less-than-ideal motives can do good and protect others by coming forward and reporting the abuse they suffered.
In the Name of a Safer Society
As we wrap this up, let’s circle back to our initial intrigue about “suspicious timing.” Not so intriguing now, right? The timing is not what’s essential here. It’s about the safety of our society for children and the seriousness of these allegations. We should be more concerned with prevention, protection, and justice than the clock ticking in the background. Our bottom line:
- Let’s all remember what research tells us.
- Err on the side of caution.
- Take the prudent course of action and believe that men, women, and kids who report having sexual violence are being honest, even if the timing of their report seems odd or problematic.
To make our society safer, we need to learn to welcome abuse reports, regardless of when, where, or how they surface. The timing may seem odd, problematic, or even downright fishy, but guiding our reactions with trust and empathy is, without a doubt, our best way forward.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.