Calgary Sun

January 16, 2003

Dangerous Game

False accusations of abuse injure children too

By Kevin Martin -- Calgary Sun

Men who sexually abuse children -- especially their own -- sit at or near the top of the list when it comes to ranking the dregs of society. But women who falsely accuse former spouses of sexual misbehaviour in a bid to force them out of the lives of the children they share shouldn't place far behind. Subjecting a young child to physical abuse is the most vile of abhorrent behaviour which not only scars the victim for life but often creates a cycle of abuse for generations.

Those abused in their formative years often see such conduct as somehow "normal" and repeat it, or take part in other anti-social endeavours, in later life. Because of this, our judicial system properly punishes sexual predators of children severely, often sending them to federal penititentiaries with the murderers, bank robbers and other major miscreants.

Judges also cast careful eyes toward child custody cases in which allegations of abuse arise. Estranged fathers are routinely forced into limited contact with their children, usually through supervised visits, when such accusations surface -- and rightfully so.

When it comes to the safety of the young in society, no chances should be taken.

The overriding consideration in any custodial dispute is, and must remain, the protections and best interests of the children. Unfortunately that tenet is sometimes the sword women use to ensure the men they once loved are not only forever removed from their lives, but punished for it.

Any accusation of sexual misconduct by a father on a child sends up a series of red flags. Police and child welfare offices place dads under a microscope in an effort to get to the heart of the allegations.

Even if the claims can't be substantiated, the innocent targets often end up stigmatized by a system which forever labels them. Meanwhile, those levelling the allegations usually do so with impunity. While it's a criminal offence to falsely accuse someone of a crime, disgruntled ex-wives often get around such laws by simply expressing suspicions that something bad has occurred.

Who can blame a mother for telling the authorities she thinks her child's poor conduct of late may be related to some improper behaviour on dad's part? In fact, where concerns are legitimate, it would be irresponsible for a parent not to report them. However, such allegations should not be used for simple vengeance.

When they are, it's not just the fathers and society generally -- through wasted limited resources which could be better well spent -- who suffer. Children who become pawns in a game of revenge are victimized almost as badly as those who are truly sexually abused. In fact, through constant prodding by a spiteful parent, some children begin to believe they were actually victims of sexual abuse. They grow up with the same psychological wounds suffered by real victims of abuse.

Fathers who used their own offspring for some perverse sexual gratification are the lowest of the low. But mothers who push their children into falsely believing that they were somehow victims of traumatic events which never occurred aren't much better.

Copyright © 2002, Sun Media Corporation / Netgraphe inc.