Sexual Assault Accusations In the Wake of Harvey Weinstein & Kevin Spacey: What of Those Falsely Accused?

A person would have to live under a rock not to know of the tsunami of sexual assault allegations that have rolled across the U.S. in the past few weeks, following the revelations of sexual assault allegations made against famous Hollywood figures such as film producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey.  These accusations started in Hollywood, but have in the past few weeks spread to almost every corner of American society – from producers, directors and actors to CEO’s, politicians and civic leaders, corporations, non-profits and academic institutions.

While I am sure that a substantial number of these allegations of sexual assault are true, people need to remember that sexual assault accusations are some of the easiest to manufacture or use as leverage against another person.  This can be done for a variety of reasons – most commonly financial leverage, revenge against a relationship gone bad, jealousy and other reasons.  What concerns me about the current social environment is the veritable explosion of these accusations, seemingly arising from every corner of American society, since the Harvey Weinstein revelations.  It seems that countless individuals from every corner of society are now screaming “Me Too” – claiming that they were “victims” of “sexual assault.”  I showed my wife a picture I saw on Facebook recently of a group of women all holding “Me Too” signs – each one of them smiling ear to ear, as though they had just one some kind of award.  What’s wrong with this picture — in general?   These are victims of “sexual assault”?

Again, I’m sure that a considerable number of these types of sexual assault accusations are true, but we need to stop and ask:  Should we believe every one of these claims?  Are we to believe that because of the “shocking” news that a Hollywood producer had a “casting couch,” that immediately means that everyone is a victim, no matter how stretched the reasoning?  The current social environment strikes me as being the latest rage in a culture that is addicted to controversy, the latest cause celebre that many people want to belong to:  The “#MeToo” groups, all who claim that they’ve, too, been victims of “sexual assault,” presumably because they’re so sexually attractive.  The accusers run the gamut from straight to gay, young to old, and within just about every ethnicity.  However, in a distinctly different attitude on this topic, if one questions a woman who claims that she’s been sexually assaulted, the person posing those questions is immediately branded by groups such as radical feminists, as being a “misogynist” or a “woman-hater.”   No, I’m neither.  I’m a sex offense lawyer who has seen more false accusations of sexual assault and rape, than most people would believe.  I’m a criminal defense lawyer who believes in due process and the presumption of innocence – concepts that in the current social climate concerning sexual assault allegations, seem unimportant to too many.

I’ve seen many cases of people claiming they’ve been “sexually assaulted,” when another person just touched them on the arm or the back.  I’ve seen “victims” who claim they’ve been sexually “assaulted” when another person tells them they “look good today.”  I’ve represented people who have been dragged in front of HR Departments, accused of sexual “assault” and creating a “sexually hostile work environment”, for the most innocent and innocuous of events.  None of these were, on a legal level, “sexual assaults,” but that didn’t stop the accusers of making these allegations – and it didn’t stop the accused’s lives from being ruined.  People need to understand what – on a legal level – sexual assault and rape are, and what they’re not.

In my next post, I’ll explain what actions legally constitute a sexual assault or rape, and, equally important, what actions don’t.