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This advice on coping with the psychological impact of a false allegation 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.
Download a printable copy of the advice
How to cope in the immediate aftermath of the false allegation
Talk about your situation
Talk 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 about this because this avenue of support is vital and could be life-saving.
Phone our helpline on 0333 335 5827
Find out more about our legal helpline and other support here. You can also speak to the Samaritans on 116123 (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 specialist legal advice
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. Doctors are vulnerable to false allegations too and will understand you. Don’t be afraid to take medication such as antidepressants and sleeping tablets if they are prescribed for you.
Get help from your union
Contact your Union and/or professional indemnity insurance provider. They may be able to help with legal costs and accompany you to disciplinary hearings.
Don’t talk to the media about the false allegation
If necessary let your legal adviser do the talking for you.
How to cope with a false allegation in the longer term
Don’t lose touch with your friends and family, they are your lifeline.
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.
Keep seeing your doctor
Members of FACT found that their GP was the most helpful professional they could see. They can offer support and may offer medication. Don’t be afraid to discuss any concerns if you are not sure about this.
Try to take active steps to gain control
Our members have told us how taking measures to take some control over the situation has helped them to cope. Some ideas were :
- Helping their legal team prepare their defence against the false allegation.
- Supporting others in the same situation.
- Researching the allegation and/or the complainant
- Getting involved in campaigning for justice for the wrongfully accused.
Try some psychological strategies to manage your anxiety and depression
Some FACT members found that they could try and keep their anxiety in a separate compartment of their mind. Another strategy was to make a decision to only talk about the false allegation at an agreed time of the day. Others practised ‘mindfulness’, which is a way of living in the present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
Use distraction techniques
It can be helpful to try to distract yourself from your fear and anxiety. Some found exercise such as long walks or jogging helpful. Others took holidays or long weekends. Music, comedy films, creative hobbies and voluntary work are other useful distractions.
Counselling can be useful, but check the counsellor’s confidentiality policy first. The same goes for visits to faith leaders. Some may feel obliged to take safeguarding measures if they mistakenly believe that the allegation is true.
Drugs and alcohol
Take care, because overindulgence can make your mental state worse and damage your health.
Download a printable copy of the advice
Check out our other pages about coping with the trauma of a false allegation
The psychological basis of trauma and how to cope with it
Other resources to help you cope
Useful websites and advice
How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing – Mind
Self esteem, what it is and how to improve it – Mind
Be mindful – a website about how mindfulness can improve your wellbeing
OK Rehab An organization 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.
Read the full report of our members’ coping strategies
The full report of the questionnaire can be downloaded here (23 pages)