How to cope with the psychological impact of a false allegation
The advice on this page is distilled from the results of a questionnaire about coping strategies. The questionnaire was distributed at a FACT Conference in 2017. 43 people replied, 33 had themselves been wrongfully accused, eight were spouses or partners of the falsely accused and two were other relatives or friends.
Not all the advice that follows may be suitable for a particular person but it is highly likely that some of it will be helpful.
In the immediate aftermath of the investigation
- Talk about your situation with close family and friends. You may be surprised how
supportive they are. The majority of those responding to the questionnaire found them
helpful. If your work place prohibits you from speaking to anyone, get legal advice because
this avenue of support is vital and could be life-saving.
- Phone FACT’s helpline(see sidebar for details). You can also speak to the Samaritans on 116 123
(in the UK and the Republic of Ireland). Don’t keep it all to yourself. We will listen and
understand what you are going through.
- Get good specialist legal advice from a team that will support you and believe in your
innocence. FACT can help you find a good solicitor.
- See your GP as soon as possible. Your doctor can help you look after your mental and
physical health at this difficult time and can keep a record of your suffering. Doctor’s are vulnerable to false allegations and will understand you. Don’t be afraid to take medication such as antidepressants and sleeping tablets if they are prescribed for you.
- Contact your Union and/or professional indemnity insurance provider.
- Don’t talk to the media; if necessary let your legal advisor do the talking for you.
In the longer term
- Keep in touch with family and friends, and keep talking.
- Make use of FACT’s support, come to FACT conferences and speak to other members of
FACT who are in the same situation as you. We understand what you are going through
because we have been there too. FACT’s website has many helpful resources
- Continue to visit your doctor, and take medication if prescribed.
- You will feel better if you can take active steps to regain some control of the situation. Some
of the strategies recommended by our respondents are:
a. Get involved in campaigning for justice for the wrongfully accused.
b. Support others in the same situation.
c. Research the allegation and/or the complainant
d. Help your legal team prepare your defence.
e. Keep a diary, including detailed notes of meetings, correspondence and phone calls.
f. Research false memories and the phenomenon of wrongful allegations.
g. Read accounts of other victims of wrongful allegations.
- These psychological strategies can help control your anxiety and depression.
a. Try to keep your anxiety in a separate “compartment” of your mind.
b. Limit the amount of time during the day during which you and your partner/spouse
discuss the situation.
c. Try to live in the moment. You may want to learn and practise the technique of
- These distraction techniques can also help control your mood.
a. Exercise, such as long walks.
b. Keep busy.
c. Go on weekends away or holidays somewhere completely different.
d. Visit family and friends.
e. Listening to music, watching escapist or comedy films and TV can be helpful.
f. Take up a creative hobby or find a constructive project.
g. Do voluntary work.
- Counselling can be helpful, but check their confidentiality policy first. Some counsellors will
feel they need to pass on information about you if they (mistakenly) think you are a risk to
- If you visit your priest or faith leader bear in mind that they may have an obligation to take
safeguarding measures which may restrict what you can do in your faith community. You
may want to seek spiritual support elsewhere.
- Keep drugs and alcohol under control, over indulging can damage your health and can make
your anxiety and depression worse.
Useful websites and advice
OK Rehab An organisation to help you cope with any addictive behaviour, including, but not limited to alcohol and drugs. Unfortunately, the stress of a false allegation could make addictive behaviour worse, or cause an addiction. The people running this service are ‘in recovery’ themselves so are uniquely placed to help you find the right treatment which may be private or NHS.