We live in an era where those who have suffered sexual abuse are rightly encouraged to come forward and make formal complaints. As a consequence, the path to claiming compensation for sexual abuse is now more defined. There are also numerous personal injury solicitors out there who can assist with putting together often challenging evidence to formulate a case for compensation. The fact sexual abuse is now out in the open has prompted many victims to seek both the physical and psychological support needed to recover.
Before we take a look at the various aspects to take into consideration when pursuing sexual abuse compensation, it is worth reminding ourselves of the definition of sexual abuse.
Defining sexual abuse
When looking to pursue a criminal prosecution or seek compensation for sexual abuse, there needs to be a legal definition of sexual abuse. In simple terms, this type of abuse is defined as any unwanted sexual act/activity where there is no consent or it is forced upon another person. This definition can be further broken down into specific actions which include: –
- Online grooming
- Sexual activity
- Sexual exploitation
- Sexual harassment
- Female genital mutilation (FGM)
While activities such as FGM were previously seen as “cultural” they are now clearly defined under UK law. It is no longer possible to hide behind any cultural activities which are unlawful. So, now we have the basic definition of sexual abuse, how do you go about claiming compensation?
Types of injury compensation for sexual abuse
When looking at personal injury law you will very quickly become aware that both physical and mental injuries are now treated on the same basis. Historically there was a “natural” bias towards physical injuries which were perhaps easier to diagnose. Thankfully, in recent years we have seen significant advancements in mental health care. Therefore, while previously many people suffering mental injuries as a consequence of various forms of sexual abuse may not have pursued a compensation claim, the situation is now very different.
- Physical injuries
Evidence presented in sexual abuse cases will often refer to horrendous physical injuries as a result of an attack. In some cases, these injuries can be life-threatening and many victims will bear the physical scars for many years to come. However, whether sexual abuse takes place in the home, workplace, or any other environment, the relevant parties can be prosecuted.
- Mental injuries
While physical injuries are often easier to diagnose and “appreciate”, the mental scars of sexual abuse in its many forms can have a long-lasting effect. There is now a growing support network of experts who can assist those who have been affected. Again, whether in the home, workplace, or any other environment, there are numerous relevant parties who could be held responsible.
Perpetrators of sexual abuse
In recent times we have seen a huge increase in the number of sexual abuse cases prosecuted in the courts and victims seeking compensation. As a consequence, a number of patterns have emerged with regards to common perpetrators of sexual abuse which tend to include:-
- Sexual abuse by strangers
- Sexual abuse by fathers
- Sexual abuse by mothers
- Sexual abuse by husbands
- Sexual abuse by teachers
- Sexual abuse by family members
- Sexual abuse by colleagues
- Sexual abuse by those in positions of power/influence
It is worth noting that while many people automatically connect the term sexual abuse exclusively with young children this is not necessarily the case. In some instances, the abuse may start at a relatively early age but it can continue into adulthood (or even start in adulthood). Indeed, sexual abuse and sexual attacks can happen at any age. In many ways, this is the challenge for those looking to prosecute such offences and also seek compensation for physical and mental injuries.
Evidence for a sexual abuse compensation claim
For the vast majority of personal injury compensation claims, there is a three-year time limit. This time-frame will begin either when the injuries were received or diagnosed. Thankfully, the courts can show a degree of understanding with regard to sexual abuse claims as some victims are not able to report the abuse until many years later. As a consequence, the three-year limit still applies (from the age of 18 if a child) in England and Wales but can be extended at the court’s discretion. In Scotland, the three-year limit would begin from the age of 16 if the victim was a child. For certainty as laws frequently change, you should consult a personal injury solicitor.
If you have been the victim of sexual abuse in its many guises the first thing to do is gather evidence to support your sexual abuse claim. This can come in many different forms such as:-
- Medical evidence confirming sexual abuse
- Psychological damage confirmed by a specialist
- Dates, times and places
- Physical evidence such as voice recordings and images
- Witness statements
- Evidence of systemic patterns of abuse
As many sexual abuse claims can take years to emerge, some legal and civil prosecutions can hinge upon similar patterns of abuse by one person across many victims. Once you have the outlines of the case you should then approach a specialist personal injury claims solicitor. Often taking in third-party advice and specialist assistance, they will be able to review your evidence, make suggestions and where possible begin the process of claiming sexual abuse compensation.
In many ways, sexual abuse is based upon the control of victims and the ability to keep them quiet. What you will tend to find is that many of those who carry out this type of abuse will have numerous victims. Often, as one victim steps forward others will be empowered and follow suit which often allows prosecutors to define patterns of abuse and similar actions. When you consider that some of this abuse may have occurred decades ago, often in strict privacy, this type of evidence can be pivotal.
Pursuing compensation for sexual abuse
It is worth noting that claimants can pursue those who carried out the abuse AND/OR those who failed to protect them. This could take in an array of third parties such as:-
- Education facilities/public services
- Social services
- Religious organisations
In order to pursue third parties such as employers, local authorities, etc there will need to be sufficient evidence to show that they failed to fulfil their legal obligations. For example, employers are responsible for the health and well-being of their employees and social services the protection of at-risk individuals. The emergence of sexual abuse within football clubs, youth facilities, religious establishments, and other scenarios has highlighted the fact that no setting is immune to the dangers. It is also safe to say that the Internet has opened up a whole new gateway for those looking to groom future victims and engage in unlawful activity.
The vast majority of compensation claims do not actually reach the court room as the evidence is often overwhelming. In these scenarios, parties representing the claimant and those being prosecuted will likely undertake a number of meetings to agree an out-of-court settlement. The majority of those being prosecuted for such activities may also seek to make settlements private and confidential to protect their “reputation”.
General damages/ special damages compensation
Before we look at the different types of compensation, it is worth reiterating the fact that the courts see physical injuries and mental injuries on a par. When it comes to sexual abuse claims sometimes the mental injuries can be more serious and long-lasting than the physical ones.
There are two different types of compensation available which are known as general damages and special damages. General damages tend to relate to compensation for injuries including:-
- Physical injuries
- Mental injuries
- Development of associated conditions
- Impact on family members
- Impact on everyday life
The situation with special damages is different as they are effectively the reimbursement of monies spent/lost as a consequence of the abuse. While not an exclusive list, special damages can include:-
- Cost of medical treatment
- Loss of earnings
- Cost of recuperation
- Detrimental impact on career
- Treatment for psychological issues
When you consider the potential long-term impact on a victim’s life the level of compensation could be significant. While there are large payments available for some physical injuries it is very often the loss of earnings/reimbursement of costs which is greater.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)
It is also worth mentioning the CICA which is an executive agency of the UK government that administers a compensation scheme for victims of violence. In the past we have seen numerous instances of successful prosecutions where the guilty party does not have sufficient assets to cover compensation awards. This is where the CICA can step in to award compensation to victims of sexual abuse where there has been a criminal prosecution.
There are a number of steps to follow with this type of compensation claim which includes:-
- Providing a police reference number
- Medical examination report highlighting injuries
- Lodging a claim
The traditional timescale for making such applications is usually about two years from the date of the incident or when police were notified of the crime. Again, the situation is slightly different with regard to sexual abuse as details may not emerge until decades down the line. For those who’ve been the victim of any type of violent act, the CICA is certainly an option worth looking at with our solicitor.
Start a sexual abuse compensation claim
If you have experienced any form of sexual abuse and would like to start a sexual abuse compensation claim, please contact us and rest assured that your claim will be treated in the appropriate manner in what can be harrowing circumstances.