While it’s crucial that we treat victims of sexual assault with the utmost care and consideration, instances of false accusations can upend an innocent person’s life, sometimes taking years to recover. If someone falsely accuses you of sexual assault, what steps can you take to protect yourself?

Don’t try to resolve the issue by talking directly to the police

Innocent people believe that if they simply explain the situation to police, reason will prevail and the issue will be quickly resolved. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. In fact, talking to the police without an attorney present can cause more problems than it solves.

You may say the wrong thing or misremember the series of events or even confuse a small detail in your alibi when the authorities ask you to repeat your story multiple times. A simple misstatement can turn a straightforward case of innocence into a murky case of suspicion. If you’re arrested, do nothing more than politely ask to speak to an attorney.

Hire an experienced attorney

One of the many common myths about sex crimes is that hiring an attorney that specializes in sex crime defense makes you look guilty. On the contrary, relying on an inexperienced attorney could result in serious consequences.

No matter your innocence and convincing alibi, you should approach false charges like your life depends on it – because it does. Judges and the legal system in general make mistakes all the time. If you read the news, you’ve probably seen dozens of stories over the years of judges belatedly clearing innocent people of their crimes, sometimes after serving decades in prison. Innocent people ending up in prison is rare, but you don’t want to gamble your future on those odds.

You shouldn’t rely on the courts to untangle the truth, no matter how obvious your innocence seems. Let a sex crimes defense attorney do what they do best.

Write down everything you remember

Preparing a solid case includes writing down every detail you can remember of the incident in question. Our memories work best when we take the time to document events in thorough detail. Piecing together details like the other people present, what was going on before during and after the alleged assault, roughly what time events occurred and so forth can unlock smaller yet important details you might not recall just by orally telling your story.

Stay off social media

Powerful emotions are an unavoidable side effect if someone falsely accuses you of sexual assault. Resist the urge to get ahead of the story by posting your side on social media. At best, it will do nothing to help your case. At worst, it will draw skepticism and prosecutors might even use your posts against you in court. Let the legal process play out and prove your innocence for you.