The government is denying children compensation for sexual abuse – because they ‘consented’

This was the poster for a campaign to expose child sex abuse, a few years ago. The text states: “Don’t be an accomplice. Denounce child abuse.” It doesn’t say “… but don’t expect the government to compensate the victims!”

Children cannot legally consent to sexual activity; any sex involving children is a crime and the UK government knows that because the government makes the law.

Why, then, has the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) – which is an executive agency of the UK government – denied compensation to almost 700 victims of child sexual abuse on the grounds that they consented to it?

And why is the Ministry of Justice trying to kick this issue into the long grass?

It amounts to further victimisation of people who are already victims of one of the worst types of crime, and This Writer was outraged to hear of it, on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.

The report stated that a group of charities (including, I later discovered, Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, Rape Crisis and the National Working Group (NWG)) had to submit a Freedom of Information request to CICA in order to ascertain the facts.

The programme broadcast an account by one father of the effect of sexual abuse on his son, by adult men who groomed him – misled him into believing their criminal activity was a genuine expression of love – and of the amount of effort it took to bring a number of these men to justice.

The statement continued [boldings mine]: “As if it couldn’t get worse, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority then ruled that my son consented to sexual activity with his abusers, even though he was groomed and coerced into the conduct and the men were convicted of this.

“Victims of abuse don’t often speak out because they blame themselves for being abused. That is the power of grooming and something we, as a society, have to overcome if we want to prevent further abuse. But, by denying him and other child sexual abuse victims compensation, CICA are, in effect, telling children, ‘You are to blame for the abuse you have suffered.’

“This is totally wrong, and our family doesn’t want other children and parents to go through the additional pain and trauma that CICA has put us through.”

Alison Worsley of Barnardo’s, one of the charities involved, said: “It is the difference between what might happen in a criminal process, where the law very clearly states that children under 16 cannot consent to sexual activity, and the administration of a compensation scheme, where they look at the facts of a case and are saying that, on the balance of probability, there has been consent by the victim.

That puts the blame back on the victim and tells them that we don’t believe them, when actually the point of the grooming process and the way the perpetrator manipulates children, is to mean that they don’t consent to that abuse – they can’t.”

Referring to CICA’s attitude in refusing compensation, she said: “It is appalling… The psychological impact it has on victims when they receive that letter with the cold wording that says, “No – you were to blame. You consented,” when we’ve done so much work with them to try to get them to understand that they didn’t consent… It is appalling and there needs to be an urgent review.

The Justice Secretary [David Lidington] needs to make a change now.

In fairness, the Ministry of Justice had provided a statement to the programme: “Child sexual abuse is abhorrent and this government is committed to doing everything that is possible to support victims. We’ll look closely at the concerns raised by these charities, that some victims aren’t getting the compensation they deserve.

“The issue of compensation for victims is currently being examined by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse and the MoJ is contributing to its important work.” Kicking it into the long grass – as This Writer stated above.

But this isn’t even the first time the issue has been raised with the MoJ. Ms Worsley revealed that charities like Barnardo’s had been trying to talk to the Ministry for about a year, adding: “To wait for the independent inquiry to report simply isn’t good enough.

We need to get an urgent review now. This is quite a simple issue to look at. We’re asking them to think about the rules; where there has been a criminal conviction, compensation should be awarded. Where the young person is under 13 – and the law is very clear that a 13-year-old and [those aged] under cannot consent to sexual activity, compensation should be paid. And in circumstances where there is grooming, and there is a pattern of that grooming behaviour, the compensation authority needs to look really carefully at all the facts in that case to make their decision.”

Ms Worsley added that a child who had experienced sexual activity over a number of years could be entitled to compensation of £16,500. The money could be used to give them a fresh start in a new place, away from their abusers; pay for additional therapy, for example, for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Guardian has reported that CICA has said it is “urgently reviewing” its guidelines “to ensure they are robust enough to deal with cases where grooming may be a factor.” The paper also said compensation payouts could total as much as £44,000.

This is encouraging.

But what about those who have already been denied the compensation that is owed to them? What about the additional trauma that this has caused them?

The Woman’s Hour segment mentioned a scene in the recent TV drama Three Girls, in which one of the protagonists receives a letter from the Crown Prosecution Service, telling her that her own abuse case will not be pursued. Her mental health “unravels” from that point on, listeners were told.

And, lurking at the back of This Writer’s mind, there’s also this:

Is this simply another attempt to save money by undermining the victims of sexual crime?

I am personally acquainted with several victims of child sexual abuse. Many of them were unable even to convince the police that there was a case to answer, so they suffered the trauma described in Three Girls.

How discouraging is it for them – and anybody else in their situation – to learn that even victims who won their case in court are still being treated, not as victims, but as accomplices?

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9 thoughts on “The government is denying children compensation for sexual abuse – because they ‘consented’

  1. Brian

    Probably for the same reasons they deny dependents of victims of murder any compensation, when that victim has any criminal convictions. The logic being that they must surely have brought their murder upon themselves. Perhaps someone could give an example of how this logic extends to any sense of fairness that does not judge or discriminate, like that of cutting welfare benefits to the disabled ‘to help them’. It reminds me of a certain quote, ‘It’s a punishment from God for a previous evil life’..

  2. joanna

    It is just as Bad now as it was in the 80’s!! When I complained about molestation, I was threatened with going to a secure unit, even though I had never broken the law.

    Also how can people even recover when the Tories don’t care about mental illnesses, which result from such abuse!

  3. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    This is not the first instance of the Tory government refusing to compensate individuals. See: DWP seeks law change to avoid benefit repayments after Poundland ruling | Society | The Guardian and Tax credit error costs families with disabled children £4,400 a year | UK news | The Guardian

  4. Rusty

    Makes you think are there paedophiles blocking compensation to victims! I say paedophile because that’s how they see their victims!

  5. franceskaywriter

    My abuse started when I was five and had no idea that what was happening to me was different from other children’s experience. Abuse by a loved and trusted family member is horribly confusing for any child. This ruling only shows how devoid of humanity the present government is.

  6. damo

    What is there to say exept …..go to hell tories…as if those children havent been through enough …it just seems every week the tories become more twisted in the punishing of the most vulnerable….when the time comes the tories will be judged.

  7. Dez

    What a totally horrible bunch of cretins……anyone associated with the Conservatives cannot even begin to call themselves humans for a moment longer. They have all the hallmarks of the old Germany and its treatment of the poor and vulnerable. Disgraceful bunch of toads.

  8. Zippi

    It’s not so much the denial of compensation but the reason that is the most despicable, hurtful, deplorable and disgraceful thing. If it were simply about saving money, could they not concoct some lie? It seems that this is designed to cause lasting pain. Surely, based on evidence, thee must be right to appeal? The system sounds, to me, to be legally deficient.

Comments are closed.