Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID) is a common occurrence in disputed child custody cases in which one parent makes false or exaggerated claims about sexual abuse of a minor child at the hands of the other parent.
It is unfortunately rather common for those who are divorcing or separating from a person who suffers from a personality disorder to face allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual abuse.
This phenomenon is often referred to as Sexual Allegations in DIvorce - (SAID)
There are generally no winners in SAID - only victims. The victims fall into four broad categories:
- The Children
- The Accused
- The Professionals Involved in the case
- The Accuser
The children are typically the biggest losers in a SAID case. They are exposed at a tender age to a frightening, humiliating and confusing series of questions, interviews, and examinations at the hands of parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, therapists, pediatricians and investigators - many of whom they do not know well.
Young children often do not understand why the adults around them suddenly become so interested and invasive in their questioning and investigations. They are introduced to strangers who invade their privacy in the most frightening way. They watch their parents become defensive and intrusive. Their sense of security is put under tremendous duress.
The Accused party - typically one of the divorcing parents - is another victim. They are faced with the threat of losing their children, the public humiliation of being suspected as a molester, the financial consequences of defending themselves, the problem of how to explain to their hurting children what is going on and why they have to go through these dreadful interviews and examinations and the fear of the accusations being believed.
The professionals involved in the children's lives are also victims. When exposed to a SAID case many of them are confused and scared. They typically do not know the whole truth about what is happening at home and are afraid to do or say the wrong thing to either parent or to the investigators involved. Their time is wasted and their fear of exposing the children to sexual abuse is heightened.
The Accusers are also commonly victims of their own accusations. This is because in most cases, accusations of sexual abuse of children in divorce cases are found to be unsubstantiated. Accusers typically are viewed very unfavorably by the courts and by the professionals involved after they play the SAID card. Many parents - who would otherwise share custody of the children, end up losing custody of the children because of SAID. The logic is this - if they are willing to expose the children to such a dreadful process in order to try to improve their own chances of winning custody of the children - it demonstrates that they are not willing to put the children's needs above their own desires - and therefore are not recognized as having good parenting abilities.
The process of investigating sexual allegations generally falls to a government organization known in the US as Department of Children and Families (DCF) - or Child Protective Services (CPS).
Typically the investigator will receive a complaint from a parent or from a third party - such as a teacher, doctor or counselor (many of whom are mandated reporters - required by law to report if they suspect child abuse is going on). Reports from professionals are generally considered to have more credibility since they are deemed as more objective than the parents. Parents who file a complaint during a custody case are generally considered least reliable since they have an ulterior motive and false allegations are extremely common in custody cases.
The Investigator, after receiving a complaint, will want to talk to the children, the parents, to teachers, doctors and any babysitters, therapists or close friends and family members who are involved in the children's care. If deemed necessary, the investigator may refer the children for medical examinations and/or psychological evaluation. Most departments have the authority to remove children from one or both parents and place them in foster care if their safety is judged to be at risk.