Three Steps You Must Take After Being Accused of Something You Didn’t Do

Heroes star Hayden Panettiere’s father, Alan, was arrested today for hitting his wife. The International Federation of Journalists has accused the Chinese government of snooping. Two U. of Virginia students have been accused of plagiarism.

Accusations, whether they’re accurate or not, happen all the time. Once in a while, they happen to us. We’re plodding along with our daily routines, and someone points a finger at us. If we’re innocent, we’ve gone from being an average, upstanding member of society to:

-A thief.
-A klutz (you’ve been accused of breaking something expensive).
-A con artist.
-A cheater.
-A sexual harasser.
-A racist.

The list goes on. Our reputations and self-esteem are suddenly up for grabs. Someone, somewhere thinks we’re ruinous human beings. To avoid making the wrong moves during a crucial time, follow these five steps to protect your good name:

1) Stay calm. Hearing an untrue accusation will probably trigger your indignation. Take a deep breath. Then another. Then another. Be calm before you decide what to do next.

2) If your accuser didn’t go to the police about the offense, contact them and ask the following:
-No, I didn’t do it.
-Why would you suspect me?
-You may want to check your other sources. It wasn’t me.

Know that there’s no charge unless your accuser has reported something to the police. Don’t go into details about why you didn’t do something, just firmly restate that you didn’t do it. Without proof, your accuser has nothing to back their accusation of you up with.

If the accuser did go to the police, say nothing. This is your “right to remain silent.” Keep your distance and contact a lawyer.

3) Move on. If someone has accused you of something you didn’t do, and you have stated your innocence, the best course of action is simply to keep your distance from that person and move on with your life. You accuser will most likely back off. If they don’t, decide what your situation is (are they now harassing you), record evidence, and take the situation from there.
If the accusation is criminal, find a way to pay for a good lawyer, who will help you with the next steps.
Knowing that accusations happen all the time, to the best and worst of people, will help you keep a clear head during the difficult—but usually brief—process of defending your innocence. In most cases, accusers simply move on to the next person, or let the issue drop. The hardest part might just be picking up the pieces of your shattered sense of self-worth.

The good news is that the more you deal with accusations, the easier they get. You might even come to a point where accusations don’t even make you blink. Know that if you get to this point, there’s a small but certain chance you have been guilty at least once.

Like this professor.

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.