Those falsely accused of misconduct—professional or personal, sexual or criminal—face a hellish choice: Let it go and allow the lie to persist as a permanent blot, or fight back through the legal process to clear their name. As we talk through the decision, my clients grapple with the damage to their relationships, lives and reputations.

They lament the unfairness of having their reputations destroyed—legacies built from work, faith, relationships and day-to-day treatment of others over a lifetime. They slowly realize there is no easy fix, in part because First Amendment precedents place an enormous burden of proof on defamation plaintiffs. Most poignantly, they grieve over the damage to their families.

They worry about who has seen the defamation. The parents of their children’s classmates? The neighbors? The cashier who sees their name on a credit card? They stress out wondering if they’ll ever be able to go to a social gathering without encountering someone who thinks it’s true. They get angry. They cry. For most, it is their darkest hour.