False Accusations by Children who Suffer from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

August 12, 2020 Criminal Defense

false accusations from children with RAD

False accusations in the criminal justice system are a pervasive issue. It is estimated that between 2% and 10% of all allegations of sex assault alone are likely false allegations.

[1] Every time a falsely accused individual is arrested and the blatantly false accuser suffers no ramifications, the countless legitimate victims across the country are set back tremendously. False allegations do not always arise out of malice, sometimes psychological disorders can lead to false allegations. These instances are especially tragic when arising from the part of our population that is supposed to be the most innocent, a false accusation from a child.

What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a very rare, but very serious disorder that begins in early childhood. When an infant or very young child is unable to create healthy attachments to adults around them it can trigger RAD. Specifically it is a lack of the “child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing being met.” A simplified explanation begins at early infancy. A loved child who cries for food or changing is met with assistance, this creates a feeling of some kind of control and agency over one’s life. A neglected child is instead met with no such nurturing and instead this fosters a lack of control. As the child grows older it may start to exhibit RAD symptoms, manipulation, self-centeredness, and controlling behavior. As opposed to a spoiled child, this behavior can become pervasive, lacking the normal checks of a child that “likes” to be in control, being replaced by a child that “needs” to be in control.[2]

RAD behavior is especially common in adopted children and children who are a product of the foster care system. This is perhaps even more tragic, as parents and caregivers who just want to give these children a home end up with a child who feels the absolute need to control all behavior, as control has been stripped from them since infancy. RAD children can start with manipulation tactics and downright despicable behavior but can even move on to child-on-parent violence. There is often escalating behavior though, and this can lead to serious ramifications for the parents of a RAD child.

False Accusations of Abuse from a RAD Child

Children are able to understand that if a parent hits them or refuses to feed them, that they can get in a lot of trouble. This leads to brave children speaking to teachers and counselors and getting out of these serious situations. It also fosters a system where CPS will (rightfully) take every allegation seriously, where children will get special weight for coming forward against a parent in court, and where everyone fights to protect these children who have been harmed. Unfortunately, RAD children see that system for an opportunity. These children will use these reporting systems and adult to their advantage, reporting small steps of abuse – missed meals or a slap – and setup the background for a large lie that is sure to be believed later – heavy physical abuse or sexual assault. A RAD child will even “most often turn on the caregiver they have become closest to.

Defending Against RAD False accusations

There are many steps an individual caregiver can take to protect against false accusations: keeping a daily log, holding onto documentation, preventing the loss of temper, the occasional recording, and a backup plan for non-RAD children. None of these steps are guarantee to be a sure-fire fix, and an accusation may nevertheless result, at that point it’s important to find an attorney who understands how to defend against false RAD allegations and win.

A diagnosis of RAD is often going to be a part of a child’s psychotherapy record, or some other kind of psychological diagnosis. This information and the explanation of how RAD can often lead to false allegations is crucial for a jury to hear to ensure a fair trial. Unfortunately, these documents and records are normally part doctor-patient privilege and cannot be raised in a criminal trial for impeachment unless very specific requirements are met. Only recently have the Florida appellate courts begun to recognize the importance of this impeachment evidence in the pursuit of true justice and the prevention of false accusations from children leading to wrongful convictions. If the discovery process is handled just perfectly, an in-camera review may be allowed of this privileged information, allowing the analysis by a judge and hopefully the eventual admittance in trial.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Lawyer

Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience representing individuals falsely accused of crimes in Tallahassee and throughout the state of Florida. Don Pumphrey and the legal team at Pumphrey Law are ready to fight for the rights of those who have been wrongfully accused and fight for the best possible outcome. Speak to a false accusation attorney today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and free consultation with our legal team.

[2] John L. Stoller, Parenting Other People’s Children: Understanding and Repairing Reactive Attachment Disorder ix-xi (1st ed. 2006)

[1] David Lisak et. Al, False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases, 16 Violence Against Women 1318, 1318 (2010).

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