Rape Crisis & other charities demand compensation for child sexual abuse survivors
Findings out today show child sexual abuse victims and survivors who were as young as 12 at the time of the offence are being denied compensation by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), even if their attackers have been jailed.
A charity coalition, which includes Rape Crisis, Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, and the National Working Group (NWG), has written to the Justice Secretary David Lidington, demanding the Government urgently reviews CICA’s guidelines.
Since the CICA scheme launched in November 2012 nearly 700 child victims of sexual abuse have been refused payments ranging between £1,000 and £44,000, according to a freedom of information request by the charity coalition.
While the law states it’s a crime to have sexual activity with someone under the age of 16, this is not reflected in compensation decisions. Payment rules are being interpreted to suggest children can consent to their abuse.
The coalition is calling for the rules to be changed so no child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse is denied compensation because they complied with their abuse through fear, lack of understanding, or being brainwashed into believing their abuser loved them.
And new YouGov polling for the campaign shows two thirds of people (66%) think the rules should be amended so a child cannot be found to have 'consented' to activities involved in their sexual exploitation.
One survivor of child sexual abuse who has been supported by Rape Crisis in Oxfordshire said:
"The letter I received from CICA has been incredibly re-traumatising, and yet again I feel blamed and shamed for what happened. They seem to be denying any responsibility on the part of the perpetrator and have placed the blame entirely with me, a child, for being sexualised by years of abuse. Despite everything that has been learnt about child sexual exploitation over the past few years, this institution continues to blame survivors for what has happened to us and I am so angry about this."
Although she was raped when she was a child aged under 16, the letter she received from CICA stated:
"Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that you did not in fact consent to a sexual relationship with the alleged offender."
This survivor added:
"I could not have gone through this process without the support of my ISVA [Independent Sexual Violence Advocate] from my local Rape Crisis Centre. It has been invaluable to have someone by my side who has understood and supported me throughout."
Rape Crisis England & Wales Co-Chair, Dawn Thomas said:
"It's not only bizarre but also inappropriate and harmful that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority applies a different definition of consent from the law and, as a result, routinely tell victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation that they consented to the sexual violence perpetrated against them.
“Through our frontline experience, we know this is by no means the only way in which survivors and victims of these devastating crimes are disadvantaged and even re-traumatised by the current scheme, which is meant to compensate them in some small way for the significant impacts of sexual violence on their lives.
“Rape Crisis has raised concerns about the Criminal Injuries Compensation System for many years and we believe a thorough overhaul is long overdue."
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
“For children to be denied compensation on the grounds that they ‘consented’ to the abuse they have suffered is nothing short of scandalous.
“The very rules that are supposed to protect children are actually harming them.
“The Government must urgently review CICA’s guidelines so that young victims receive the redress they deserve. Ministers must guarantee that no child will ever be told that they consented to their own abuse.”
Victim Support’s Chief Executive, Mark Castle said:
“It is ridiculous, nonsensical and morally wrong to pretend that a child has consented to sexual abuse and to then use this as an excuse not to pay compensation. Any child that suffers sexual abuse is a victim – full stop.
“We call upon ministers to urgently bring about change to CICA’s guidelines so that these young people are treated fairly. They have already suffered horrendously and to be told they will not receive a payment because they willingly participated in their abuse is awful and extremely upsetting for them to hear.”
Director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier said:
“Grooming is brainwashing – perpetrators manipulate children into situations that look like consent. No child can consent to abuse, which is why the criminal law rightly says they are simply unable to do so.
“For a state agency to tell children who have survived these horrific crimes that they did consent – and deny them compensation – is a disgrace. The Government must urgently change these guidelines.”
- The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a government funded scheme designed to compensate blameless victims of violent crime in Great Britain. It is run by an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. Victims can apply for compensation and this is assessed against a set of rules. There are different financial amounts, for example depending on the sexual assault from £1,000-£44,000.
- CICA is an executive authority sponsored by the Ministry of Justice that runs the Criminal Justice Compensation Scheme. It is independent of Government and is based in Scotland. The scheme is run throughout England, Wales and Scotland. There is a different process for compensation in Northern Ireland.
- Victim Support’s Freedom of Information request revealed that since the scheme started in 2012, 693 child victims of sexual abuse have been refused compensation. The authorities do not state how many of these were denied because they ‘consented’ to their sexual relationship, but state that they were denied based on the fact that the child was ‘not a direct victim of a crime of violence’.
Update - 19th July 2017
A CICA spokesperson said:
“Child sexual abuse is abhorrent, and victims can apply for taxpayer-funded compensation awards through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.
“Our guidelines are intended to make sure that controlling and abusive behaviour is taken into account when handling compensation applications.
“We are urgently reviewing our guidelines to ensure they are robust enough to deal with cases where grooming may be a factor.”
And CICA provided the following further guidance:
- The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme awards taxpayer-funded payments to victims injured as a result of violent crime, and all applicants can appeal to an independent tribunal.
- It is incorrect to conflate 700 application refusals with the issue of consent. Of more than 4,200 applications from victims of sexual assault aged under 16, fewer than 0.66% were refused on the basis of consent.
- We cannot comment on individual cases.
Rape Crisis is deeply concerned that both child and adult victims and survivors of sexual violence, including child sexual abuse and exploitation, have been disadvantaged and even re-traumatised by their experience of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS) and will continue to monitor the situation, including the urgent review now promised by CICA, and to campaign for much-needed and long-overdue changes.