Last month, the L.L. Dunn Law Firm recently partnered with the Access to Justice Project in Charlotte, North Carolina, to defend a sexual assault victim who had been charged by the Washington County Sheriff's Office with making a false crime report - a 1st-degree misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On August 26, 2021, after a full day bench trial, Circuit Court Judge Sage B. Johnson acquitted the victim, and this week he issued an order that will allow the victim to expunge her arrest record.
Wondering why the L.L. Dunn Law Firm defended someone accused of making a false report?
So glad you asked the question!!
First, the label "false" is often tossed around inaccurately, as found by the attached research summary. Nonprofits like End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) are working to train law enforcement officials on how to avoid using biases and stereotypes to wrongly label reports as false through its "Start by Believing" campaign; however, it is still a big problem. Only a meaningful investigation can disprove a sexual assault allegation.
Furthermore, as explained by EVAWI experts called during the criminal trial, a recantation is not necessary enough, in and of itself, to constitute a false report. Just like DNA evidence has proven that innocent people falsely confess, research by Dr. Lisa Avalos and others is showing that victimized people can falsely recant under police pressure. Thankfully, this is something I learned early on in my advocacy through working on the "Justice for Patty" campaign in Madison, Wisconsin, which is recounted in the book Cry Rape.
Defending my client in court was truly an honor. I encourage all who care about survivors to ensure that their local law enforcement agencies, workplaces, and schools use the training provided by EVAWI and other advocacy organizations to avoid further traumatizing sexual abuse victims by wrongly stigmatizing them with allegations of false reports absent an investigation proving the same.