Historical sexual abuse describes sexual assault or abuse that occurred during childhood but is reported much later when the survivor reaches adulthood. It doesn’t necessarily mean the abuse was physical, though that is the most common form. It can also include non-physical interactions that involve showing children pornography or other inappropriate sexual displays.
Survivors of historical sexual abuse often struggle with the challenges of daily life. Many are left with persistent anger, as well as low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. They may experience intrusive thoughts, memories, and nightmares that make everyday life difficult. Mental health problems are a common occurrence, and the available legal remedies can provide survivors with a step forward in healing.
No amount of money can erase the trauma of child sexual abuse. However, pursuing a claim through the sexual abuse compensation scheme can help you obtain some justice, including a monetary settlement, as well as an apology from the institution responsible. This scheme gives voice to the survivors of childhood sexual abuse and that is just as important as the success of the claim. Survivors have the right to justice, and they have the right to be heard and have the world hear the truth.
Understanding Common Law Claims
A common law claim can be filed against an institution or the individual perpetrator. There is no maximum compensation when pursuing this type of claim. The claimant has to establish that there was negligence which results in abuse that lead to injury and loss. It’s a complex process and the threshold is high.
The compensation may include payments as an apology, to address economic losses of the past and future, and to pay for medical bills, pain, suffering, and aggravated damages. They can pay out significantly if you prove your case. This involves expert witnesses and doctors’ evidence of pain and suffering.
Introducing the National Redress Scheme (NRS)
The NRS scheme was created after the royal commission sexual abuse and it allows eligible historical victims of child sexual abuse to lodge sexual abuse claims.
For you to file an NRS claim, the abuse has to have occurred before July 2018. In addition, it has to be a result of institutional abuse and is only open to Australian citizens or permanent residents. The maximum payout through the NRS is $150,000, but it can be anywhere between that and $20,000. It doesn’t factor in economic losses either.
If you have previously settled a historical sexual abuse claim, you may be able to revisit your claim if it was settled before July 2015. The compensation will be adjusted to factor in the previous claim, but you still may be eligible for an additional compensation payment.
Contrasting Common Law Claims and the NRS
Common law claims are a popular choice for two major reasons – there is no cap on damages and there is no time limit. Speaking up about historical abuse can be a complicated process, and it is emotionally draining, it takes time for victims to prepare themselves to pursue justice. Common law claims calculate damages through general damages, economic loss, and special damages. The first is pain and suffering, the second describes a loss of income, and the third covers medical expenses and other costs incurred as a result of the abuse.
Claims can be made under the NRS until the 30th of June 2027. You cannot pursue both paths, which is why it’s so important to understand each process and the potential outcomes. There are limitations to the NRS. Firstly, if you are currently imprisoned, you may have to fight to prove you are eligible to apply. A lawyer can advise you on how best to proceed in this case. Additionally, the level of compensation you can receive is fixed, and once you accept the other, you close off the other legal avenues you could pursue for justice.
Legal guidance is a must because cases can go either way. In the case of Dr Ian Paterson of Knox Grammar School, he walked away without facing any repercussions for covering up allegations over 40 years. However, the perpetrator of the abuse was brought to justice.
Guidance for Decision-Making
Before you make a decision, you should find expert family sexual abuse lawyers. Each process is complex, and once you decide on which option to pursue, there is no turning back. You must know what each process looks like and the potential outcomes. A common law claim will require stronger evidence and there is likely to be a bigger toll emotionally. So, you have to be prepared for a difficult court process.
You can seek advice and guidance from expert sexual abuse lawyers in Sydney. At AJB Stevens, our friendly and knowledgeable team are skilled in navigating the National Redress Scheme and lodging claims on behalf of clients. Whether you decide to pursue an NRS claim or believe you should take the common law claim route, AJB Stevens can provide you with advice on how each path unfolds and advise you which route is better for your specific case.