The Nightmare of a False Accusation
By AnyManAmongUs
PlannedMan

Sometimes, nightmares come while you sleep. Sometimes, they come in the mail, as false memories wrapped in a plain, brown envelope.

The Nightmare of a False Accusation
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Highlights


Abuse is real but anyone with half-a-brain can make up a memory. Forget that at your own risk.

The letter that changed my life came overnight in a cardboard envelope so thin it looked like a mistake. It was.

You might be tempted to see my sister’s accusations—and my tribulations—in the fading light of the distant past. But you would be dead wrong.

Abuse is real but anyone with half-a-brain can make up a memory. Forget that at your own risk.

The letter that changed my life came overnight in a cardboard envelope so thin it looked like a mistake. It was. I used to get overnight mail almost every day, big fat packages I needed ASAP, but this one from my sister was different, express mail on a diet, the cardboard too thin—nothing to it. And this is what she said:

Dear ——:

I remember.

I remember how you raped me over and over—orally, anally, and vaginally over a long period of years. I know it started when I was a child and I’m not sure when it ended. I do know that it was always brutal and sadistic and that I feared for my life every time.

The letter that changed my life came overnight in a cardboard envelope so thin it looked like a mistake.

You are a sick, evil person. You’re never going to be a part of my life again, ever. Don’t ever contact me—don’t call me, write me, or try to see me ever again. I’ve told everybody in the family what I remember. How they treat you is their concern, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re not a part of my family anymore!…

There was more—much more and much worse.

Thirty years after the fact of my sister’s false accusations, I would love to tell you my nightmare is over, that I have moved past my familial tragedy. But that’s not what happened. My imaginary crimes made me worse in every way—less loving, less trusting, less productive, less good, less kind, less open.

Yet I never touched my sister in a sexual way. I barely remember touching her at all. Somehow the truth of what actually happened to her (or what never happened) never seemed to matter as this cataclysm played out in my life over the next three decades. Her false accusations split our family apart. Two of my three brothers believed her; only one, the youngest, made his way to my side, and even that took time. My mother went to her grave believing every word my sister said, no matter how ludicrous and/or logically impossible.

How could this have happened to me—and to tens of thousands of fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, and family friends?

We—my sister and I—were caught up in something much bigger and more sinister than our personal histories: a strange and pervasive disease infecting the country in the early 1990s like a fatal pathogen, holding men responsible for sins committed decades ago, with the so-called evidence of these repressed or recovered memories buried like land mines ready to blow sky high at the simple touch of a sympathetic therapist.

When I unsealed my sister’s letter in 1992, I sealed my own fate: there was no escape and never would be. I would like to say I have forgiven her but that’s not true now and probably never has been. What she did was inexcusable and remains unforgiveable. To falsely accuse your own brother of a crime, a felony, is ghastly. To never say you’re sorry is even worse.

How could it be anything but?

I could have ignored her accusations—or laughed them off. I wish I had done one or the other but I was never wired that way. I am not proud of that but that’s who I am—the kid who grew up in a family where you needed to defend everything against the relentless attacks of your siblings. And I know I will never get what I want: her recanting and my total exoneration.

The long shadow of recovered ‘memories’ and false accusations is like the claw reaching up from the grave in Carrie.

You might be tempted to see my sister’s accusations—and my tribulations—in the fading light of the distant past. But you would be dead wrong. The long shadow of recovered memories and false accusations is like the claw reaching up from the grave in Carrie—the dead who come back to life in a horror movie if you don’t put a cleaver through their heads.

Just when I thought I was safe from further litigation a remarkable thing happened: I ended up back in the cross-hairs of one of the most destructive movements in American history.

I live in New York State and so does my sister. In a unanimous vote, New York’s State Senate agreed in January 2019 to change the law for the statute of limitations for child molestation. Less than a month later, at The Daily News in New York City, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act into law on Valentine’s Day. Before this Child Victims Act, claims of childhood abuse had to be filed by age 23, but the new bill extended the age to 55. I quickly did the math in my head: I am almost 65 so my sister must be 58 and change. I do a search and confirm she turned 60 in 2019, so the statute of limitations no longer applies to her regardless of the new law. Or so I believed, based on my initial reading of the Child Victims Act.

For a moment I thought I was in the clear and my sister would have no right to file suit against me for crimes I did not commit. (Think about that sentence for a second.) But I kept reading and there was a catch: anyone can file suit under the new law during a one-year window temporarily suspending the statute of limitations in New York State. So I had to wait until August 14, 2020, to be free at last of the chance of spurious litigation for crimes I never contemplated or committed.

My fear of being punished so many years later for sins not committed was almost an out-of-body experience. And then it gets even worse: because of the pandemic, New York State extends the one-year window on sexual abuse claims by another six months.

I know too much by now to think my innocence protects me in any way. I could go to jail at the age of 65 for made-up crimes I supposedly committed over 50 years ago, starting when I was 14 in the made-up fantasy world of my batshit sister.

I wait and I wonder—but the deadline passes without a peep. I am free at last of false accusations. For now.

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