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Trauma Thursday: Why Would Somebody Lie About Being Abused?

faitha's picture

By faitha - Posted on 05 March 2009

Traumatized Adopted Child (c) JulieC

I have been asked to write about the topic of why a person might lie about being abused as a child. This is an interesting topic because I frequently see the opposite of this – child abuse survivors trying to convince others that they were not abused. That was certainly true of me. I would tell my therapist horrendous stories of abuses that I suffered and follow them up by saying, “… but it wasn’t that bad. Other people have had it worse.”

I have seen this dynamic a lot with people who are new to healing from child abuse. They used denial of the abuse as a coping tool throughout their childhoods. They fight facing the reality of their experience. They certainly don’t want to convince anyone that the abuse happened – just the opposite. They will bend over backward to prove that they were not abused.

But I digress…

People have all sorts of motivations for doing all sorts of things. Some people will lie about having an abuse history to gain sympathy from others. They might then use that sympathy as a tool for manipulation.

Some children, even those who experienced abuse, might lie about the culprit. For example, I have heard of children lying about being abused to “get back” at parents, foster parents, or guardians for making unpopular parenting decisions. Accusations of child abuse can be a powerful weapon for a child with a lot of anger toward his caregivers.

Anyone who lies about being abused as a child needs serious help. I cannot imagine lying about something like this. It has taken a lot of courage for me to talk about the abuses that I suffered as a child. I do it so I can encourage others who are going through the hard work of healing from the child abuse and trying to reclaim their lives.

Talking about child abuse can be embarrassing. I risk being rejected in my most sensitive and vulnerable places. This is not something that I do lightly.

While somebody might be able to talk the talk, a “faker” is readily apparent to anyone who has truly suffered from child abuse. Child abuse permeates every aspect of a person’s life. Symptoms of the aftermath of abuse abound – you can’t fake this degree of emotional damage. 

But back to the original question – Why would somebody lie about being abused as a child? My best guess is that the person has an agenda and believes that this kind of lie will help the person accomplish his goals. Personally, I cannot imagine lying about something like this, but it apparently does happen.

Photo credit: JulieC

scrapsbynobody's picture

I think the reason many children in foster care lie about being abused, are the same reasons they engage in many of the other socially unacceptable behaviors, such as other lying, stealing, property destruction, sexual acting out, etc. It is a heady mix of pity, attention, and a feeling of control. They love the pity and attention, and soak it up like sponges. At the same time, if a child has a lot of ongoing anger, it is a chance to lash out and hurt others. For some reason this does not have to be aimed at the actual person that hurt you. Indiscriminate lashing seems to feel good. Plus it is an adrenaline and power trip. This sort of allegation causes a LOT of upheaval, and puts the child in the driver's seat, even for a short time. For children who live powerless lives, you can see why this might be tempting.

I can see where this pattern might stretch into adulthood. The things that "work" for us are reinforced, even if they are bad things. These old habits die very hard, and may take years to change. In the meantime a lot of innocent people can get hurt. I live with false reporters, and it is a constant concern that you guard against. Another thing I can note just from my own experience, is that most people who report abuse falsely, were in fact abused or traumatized in some way. But for some reason they feel the need to embellish their stories. It is true that certain sorts of abuse stories elicit a better response than maybe they have just learned this along the way.

AngelaW's picture

Thanks for this blog.


The ones that you love the most are usually the ones that hurt you the most. - Unknown