Response from the School District following an alleged sexual assault involving a Cowichan Secondary School student was predictable and appropriate given the presumed circumstances.
However, the day after a 40-year-old man was arrested and detained, the RCMP determined there was no basis to the allegation coming from the 14-year-old girl who claimed she had been dragged into a business and assaulted.
Now is the time for this School District and others to consider how to present another serious message to students.
Allegations of this nature can be career-ending, reputation-killing and, yes, even life-threatening.
Targets of false claims of a sexual nature may ultimately be cleared in any subsequent criminal proceedings, but in the court of public opinion, a fair resolution of the matter isn’t so easy.
The stigma of being accused of a sexual assault remains long after the matter has been dismissed by the courts. Inevitably, there are people in the community – including friends and family of both the accuser and the accused – who want to believe the courts got it wrong.
Or, perhaps, they simply missed the news that the accused had been cleared. The media rarely does a good job of following up on these cases once they are wrapped up. Certainly the coverage is nothing like the sensational reports that begin the moment the allegations are reported.
And it must be pointed out that accusers who make false allegations also do a serious disservice to the victims of actual sexual assaults.
Their spurious claims make it just that much more difficult for traumatized victims to find the courage to report their attack.