Jurors' gender and their fear of false child sexual abuse accusations are related to their belief in child victims' allegations


Advocate Lutheran General Hospital


We developed the first Fear of False Accusations scale, measuring the public's fear of personally being the target of untrue child sexual abuse allegations despite no actual wrongdoing as well as the fear of false allegations being a common problem in society. The scale was statistically reliable within a diverse sample of 964 participants. Several months later, in an ostensibly unrelated mock trial experiment, a subset of the participants assumed the role of mock juror and considered a criminal case involving an accusation of child sexual abuse. As predicted, (a) mock jurors with higher levels of fear were less likely than others to believe a specific child sexual abuse allegation (but did not differ in ratings of victim credibility nor responsibility), (b) men had significantly higher levels of this fear than did women, and (c) mediational analyses revealed that gender differences in fear partially explained men's tendency to believe the child abuse allegation less than women did. This research is important for developing the first empirically validated measure of fear of false accusation and linking this fear to perceptions of specific child sexual abuse allegations, and for finding a partial explanation for gender differences in mock jurors' reactions to child sexual abuse allegations.

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