Every day people are arrested or accused of crimes they did not commit in West Virginia. The accusations, even when proven to be false, can have a serious effect on the person. The court of public opinion often weighs in, even more so now in the age of social media. Just the hint that someone could be guilty of a crime is enough for people to play judge and jury. Rumors get spread and a person’s life can be devastated.

According to Psychology Today, the mental effects of being falsely accused of a crime can be severe, even resulting in suicide. The reaction of people to an accusation is often compared to bullying. People assume guilt and therefore nothing the person says or does nor any proof produced that they are not guilty has no effect on the damage already done to their reputation.

Things can get even worse when someone has been accused of a sexual-related crime. The National Coalition for Men notes that the stigma attached to sexual accusations is incredibly harsh. Someone accused of a crime they did not commit becomes a victim themselves. They may be incarcerated until evidence is produced to prove their innocence. In addition, they are labeled by society and become an outcast. The problem is growing as it is becoming difficult for anyone to claim an accusation is false for fear of being accused of victim shaming. Not believing an accusation is something the public is not willing to do because they could end up having their own reputations shredded.