Compensation denied for sexually abused children

Children who have been sexually exploited are allegedly being denied compensation by government agency The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA), on the grounds that they gave their ‘consent’.

Released yesterday, these findings suggest that victims of child sexual abuse as young as 12 are being denied compensation, even in cases where their abusers have been jailed.

Five charities which form the charity coalition, including Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, Rape Crisis and the National Working Group (NWG), have written to the Justice Secretary David Lidington, demanding that CICA’s guidelines be reviewed.

The charity coalition freedom of information request revealed that since the CICA scheme was launched in November 2012, nearly 700 victims of child sexual abuse have been refused compensation ranging between £1,000 and £44,000.

Though the law states it is illegal to have sexual activity with anyone under 16, it appears that this is not being taken into account in compensation decisions. The decision to refuse compensation on the grounds that a young person ‘consented’ is effectively saying that a victim – and under the age of legal consenting age – consented to their abuse.

We wholeheartedly back the charity coalition in their calls for rules to be changed to reflect that “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”.

Two thirds of people responding to a new YouGov poll also think the rules should be amended to reflect that children cannot consent to their own sexual exploitation.

An example given was of a girl who was denied compensation, even after a gang of older men were jailed for 30 years, convicted of raping and sexually assaulting her. She was told she would be denied compensation because “she had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts”.

It is shocking to think that a government agency can have so little understanding of sexual consent. To have the criminal justice system jail perpetrators for a non-consenting sexual act such as rape, and then another agency tell the victim of that same act that it was consensual is worrying and unjust.

In effect CICA are applying a different definition to consent than that of the law itself; the law which convicts perpetrators for these crimes. To be able to effectively override the law when it comes to decision-making on compensation is dangerous, and is likely to leave the victim feeling as if the abuse that they suffered was in some way their fault.

No child can ever consent to their own sexual exploitation and abuse and to use consent in this context demonstrates a lack of understanding. We had hoped that those making decisions in the interests of children and young people would have a full understanding of these issues.

In addition to calling for a review of CICA guidelines, we would also suggest that thorough and specific training is provided for anyone working on cases featuring children and young people.

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