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False Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse


By: Leigh M.Baker, Psy.D.

March 22, 2016

False allegations of child sexual abuse have become increasingly common in family courts in recent years. Many children nationwide who make false claims of sexual abuse are taken from nurturing well- meaning parents for extended periods of time, while investigations take place. Often these children become so estranged from the accused parent that relationships are torn asunder and never repaired.

A majority of these allegations occur in the context of highly contested divorce and custody cases. Millions of taxpayer dollars and countless hours are spent investigating these difficult cases each year.

Much attention has been focused on the catastrophic results of faulty interviewing techniques used with young children. Interviewer bias, leading questions, encouragements and rewards for answering questions, and children’s susceptibility to suggestions, often lead to faulty confirmation of sexual abuse allegations.

In most cases, the child who has made allegations of sexual abuse is brought to a mental health professional for confirmation of abuse. The child’s therapist often plays a major role in the confirmation of sexual abuse. The therapist will look at the play and behaviors of the child at home and in the playroom indicative of sexual abuse. The court often relies on the mental health professional to provide testimony regarding the mental state of the child.

However, what was once considered a hallmark of child sexual abuse: bedwetting, nightmares, regression, and a preoccupation with sexual stimuli, are not always accurate indicators that the abuse actually occurred.

New studies into Munchausen by proxy suggest a parent can plant in a child the belief that he or she has been abused. These cases involve purposeful deception and are easier to identify than the ones that involve unconscious transmission of trauma. In these cases, the behaviors in the parent are often unconscious and are not readily apparent to professionals. Yet, the mechanism of unconscious transmissions emerge in the symptomatology of the child and therefore the child “acts” as if he or she has been abused.

Therefore it is critical in these types of cases where sexual abuse allegations arise in high conflict divorce, a highly trained professional is used to help determine the credibility of children’s sexual abuse allegations.

Dr. Baker is a nationally recognized expert in childhood sexual abuse. She has published books on sexual predators and childhood sexual abuse. She has been featured in television, radio, and magazines. She serves as an expert witness in child sex abuse cases and specializes in fabricated allegations. For more information contact her at 303-790-5585, or email: Her website at offers articles on trauma and abuse.

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