Detail from “Allegory of Justice” by Claude Laprade (1702), Museo Nacional Machado de Castro, Portugal, Author P.Lameiro (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Given the recent #MeToo Movement, the Roman Catholic Church sex scandal, and the growing frequency of child abuse allegations in the context of custody disputes, the issue of credibility is crucial.

False allegations – whether of rape or child abuse which did not occur – are a serious concern.  Lives and careers can be destroyed by them.

Signs of Truthfulness

There are factors which tend to support the truthfulness of victims.  These include the following:

  • A complaint to authority, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Documented physical injury, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Changes in the behavior of a child, in close proximity to the alleged event.
  • Detailed descriptions of sexual interaction by a young child.
  • Multiple victims, unrelated to one another.
  • Recurrent victims, when an accused relocates or is reassigned.

None of these factors, by themselves, assure that allegations are grounded in fact.  Each, however, carries some weight.  All are present in the Catholic Church sex scandal.

Forensic Interviews

Interviewers must be extremely careful not to influence a child, and inadvertently implant false memories.  Special training is necessary for forensic interviews.  The McMartin Preschool scandal is an illustration [1].  Teachers there were falsely accused of numerous acts of sexual abuse with the children under their care.

Both children and adults can, of course, have ulterior motives for making an accusation.  Publicity for its own sake, and monetary gain are among these.  They must, insofar as possible, be ruled out.

Vast Majority of Rape Allegations Validated

Despite this, 90% or more of rape allegations are shown to be legitimate [2].  Few false accusations of sexual assault ever result in a criminal conviction [3].

The Feather of Truth

The Egyptian goddess Maat was said to weigh the hearts of the dead against the feather of truth.  Only if the scales of justice balanced, were the dead permitted to proceed to the afterlife.

Likewise, the God of the Bible cannot be deceived:

And He [Christ] said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.  For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God‘ ” (Luke 16: 15).

We, in this life, cannot see into men’s souls.  With the help of credible witnesses, however, we can assess their actions.

[1]  Wikipedia, “McMartin preschool trial”,

[2]  Wikipedia, “False accusations of rape”,

[3]  Quartz, “What kind of person makes false rape accusations?” by Sandra Newman, 11/5/17,



Filed under Child Abuse, Child Molestation, Christianity, Justice, Law, Rape, Religion, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women

6 responses to “Credibility

  1. Great post. Flows well.

    While a majority of serious accusations are probably true, a minority will be false. Hence, we should not believe all women in the #MeToo movement. We must not be gullible. There will always be liars among us.

    Bearing false witness is a part of man’s fallen nature. The Bible addresses it in many verses:

    • Thank you, Chris. It bears mention that assailants in power — whether w/ regard to the #MeToo Movement or the Catholic Church sex scandal — have often been the ones believed merely by reason of their position. As you say, there will always be liars among us…assailants included.

  2. It is sad that anyone would lie about such acts.. While many victims remain silent and the offender is left to prey on others until they are caught.. I have known several teens who have invented stories of sexual abuse, with help from their peers.. Simply because they didn’t like strict parenting..

  3. I agree with you Anna, that children and adults can have ulterior motives for making an accusation. Regardless of the reasons for the false accusations, the damages caused by them are often next to impossible to overcome. It is very difficult to believe however that the staggering number of victims in the latest Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal have any other motive than justice. Whether such justice is ever meted out in this life remains to be seen, yet we know that God is just and true and will demand an answer one day.

    • In a great many cases the very records of the Catholic Church — where they have not been destroyed — confirm the guilt of the perpetrator. Also, where the Statute of Limitations has run, the motive of monetary gain is largely ruled out.

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