Charities demand compensation for sexually abused children
18 July 2017
Sexually exploited children are being refused compensation by a Government agency on the grounds they ‘consented’ to their abuse, reveals a charity coalition.
Their findings out today show child sexual abuse victims as young as 12 are being denied compensation by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), even if their attackers have been jailed.
The charity coalition, which includes Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, Rape Crisis 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 developing feelings for 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.
In one shocking example, a girl who saw a gang of older men jailed for 30 years after being raped and sexually assaulted when she was 14 had her case taken up by Victim Support but was denied compensation by CICA on the grounds that ‘she had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts.’ She was left devastated feeling that she was somehow responsible for the abuse she’d suffered.
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.’
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 system that's 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.’
Case study - Kate’s story
At the age of 13, Kate was contacted on Facebook by a much older man. This man knew Kate’s Aunt, who was in a relationship with his brother.
He invited Kate out in the evenings to 'hang out' in local parks. She decided to go along and met a group of men there. They seemed friendly and fun and she met up with them a few more times as they only lived around the corner from her house. Everything seemed fine.
But soon things started to go wrong. At the age of 14 she found herself being pressurised into losing her virginity and having a sexual relationship with one of the men.
Before long Kate was regularly expected to have sex with him. If she didn’t, she would be threatened. The man, who scared her a great deal, was very manipulative and also subjected her to scare tactics.
This emotional and sexual abuse, including rape, continued for the next couple of months. And when Kate finally managed to escape her abuse, it took all her courage to face the man in court.
She discovered she was not the only victim and this group of men faced criminal action for abusing other young girls. Her bravery, and that of the other victims, resulted in the men being sentenced to more than 30 years’ imprisonment for crimes including rape, sexual activity with a child, and sexual assault.
Kate, who lives in the Thames Valley region, said: ‘I was deeply affected by the abuse I suffered and started to self-harm on a daily basis. Twice I attempted suicide.
‘Doctors diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I constantly felt guilty, as well as fearful and angry. I still have difficulty sleeping and when I do sleep, I frequently have nightmares.’
The damage has not just been psychological but physical too. Kate has suffered from a number of urinary tract infections and has ongoing problems with abdominal pain, which has resulted in her being admitted to hospital a number of times and seeing a specialist doctor in London. Her GP says this is a consequence of the abuse she suffered.
Victim Support referred Kate to a psychotherapist who found that, in addition to her depression and anxiety, she was also suffering from many of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Kate received therapy and started taking antidepressants.
At this time, Kate, with Victim Support’s help, put in an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) – the government agency responsible for awarding compensation to victims of serious crime.
After many months, she received a response from CICA. When she read what it said, she was devastated. The letter said CICA would not be honoring her claim because ‘on the balance of probabilities [she] had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts’.
Understandably, this was very upsetting for Kate.
She said: ‘This letter, which was very cold and business like, seemed to imply I was somehow responsible for the abuse I suffered. I was 14 when this happened. How could I have consented. I was a child.’
All of the care professionals who have had contact with Kate agree she has been sexually abused and has suffered serious consequences as a result.
The local probation service calls the case in which Kate was a victim ‘one of the most serious cases we are currently working on, due to the level of exploitation and harm involved’ and further adds that ‘it is very important that [Kate] is not made to feel responsible for what happened or that she is not believed. She was a minor and therefore unable to give consent. She was groomed… and the offenders were convicted.’
The name of the victim has been changed to protect her identity.
Notes to Editors
- 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 £1000-£44000.
- 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’.
- Figures where stated are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2020 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th - 7th April 2017. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
- 66% think CICA's guidance should be changed so a child cannot be found to have ‘consented’ to activities involved in their sexual exploitation
- 66% think CICA's guidance should be changed so children under 16 cannot be found to have ‘consented’ to any sexual activity with an adult
- Barnardo’s has 40 child sexual exploitation (CSE) services working in over 40 locations and in 2016/2017 we worked with 3,430 people through our direct support services. Throughout services, staff work under the ‘4 As’ principles - attention, advocacy, assertive outreach and access – and provide time, unlimited support to enable a young person to exit the abuse and recover.
- Child sexual exploitation, CSE, is a serious form of child abuse affecting children and young people from all backgrounds and communities across the UK. It happens when a boy or girl is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something, including gifts, cigarettes, or simply attention and affection. Once the abuser has gained the trust of the victim they start controlling and manipulating them, sometimes using force, alcohol and other illegal substances. Victims may mistakenly believe they are in a relationship and don’t realise they have, or are being groomed into having sex with one or more abuser.
- Last year 272,000 children, young people and parents were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes. Visit www.barnardos.org.uk to find out more. Call the 24 hour press office number 020 8498 7555 or Janet Knight on 07880 710273 Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605.
- Liberty was founded in 1934. We are a membership organisation at the heart of the movement for fundamental rights and freedoms in the UK. We promote the values of individual human dignity, equal treatment and fairness as the foundations of a democratic society. We are entirely independent – which means we’re free to fearlessly and robustly criticise Government policy and truly hold the powerful to account. Liberty campaigns to protect basic rights and freedoms through the courts, in Parliament and in the wider community. We do this through a combination of public campaigning, test case litigation, parliamentary work, policy analysis and the provision of free advice and information.
- Contact for the Liberty press office: 020 7378 3656 / 07973 831 128 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Victim Support (VS) is the leading independent charity for victims and witnesses of crime in England and Wales. In 2016/2017 Victim Support offered support to 814,000 people, including just over 91,000 suffering from domestic violence and 11,000 suffering from hate crime. Victim Support also runs the national Homicide Service supporting people bereaved through murder and manslaughter, and a free Supportline that anyone can access for help 24/7 on 0808 1689111. Victim Support is a member of the Home Office’s Joint Fraud Taskforce, addressing fraud and cybercrime. The charity has just over 1,000 staff and 3,000 volunteers.
- To contact Victim Support’s press office, please call: 020 7268 0202 or email: email@example.com
- Follow Barnardo’s media team on Twitter @BarnardosNews