The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority is the UK government agency that, among other things, compensates victims of child abuse and sexual assault with taxpayer-funded money. But last month, the Sunday Telegraph reported that some of the children who had filed claims had been rejected because they supposedly gave “consent” before being assaulted.
That sounds awful. And when you hear the stories, it gets even worse.
One case highlighted by [non-profit group] Victim Support involved a 12-year-old girl who was plied with alcohol, led into the woods and sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old man.
Despite the fact that the man pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 13, the victim was denied compensation.
This was because she had gone into the woods “voluntarily”, had not been a victim of violence, she emerged “happily” from the woods and that she had recently had sexual relations with another child around her own age.
All of that is truly despicable. Of course this child was a victim. She was a child. Her outward demeanor throughout the ordeal is irrelevant. And her story was only one of many.
Enter the Catholic Church.
It turns out CICA is working with the Church to compensate victims of child abuse at the hands of priests. It’s unclear to me if taxpayer money is being used for this (and if so, why), but the same kind of stories are now turning up.
One claimant was told by lawyers for the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark that his abuse, which included rape and began when he was 15, “actually occurred in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the Claimant in retrospect now appears to regret)”.
The victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told this newspaper that the use of the defence felt “insulting”. “I was below the legal age of consent anyway and there’s a grooming element to that kind of situation. It was totally disregarded and it made me feel really small,” he said.
Both he and another victim who was told she “consented” pushed back against the charges. They eventually won their appeals and received compensation. But it’s truly disturbing that CICA was using this argument at all. If the victims hadn’t fought back in court, they would have received nothing.
Church officials offered mild sympathy in a sanitized statement to the press:
In a statement a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Southwark said that “out of respect for each claimant’s privacy and the confidentiality of the legal process, the Archdiocese does not comment on individual case“, but added that it “supports the right of anyone who has suffered harm to seek compensation. Such claims are complex and often involve a number of difficult legal issues.“
There is often complexity in sexual assault cases. But when the victim is underage, the issue of whether or not they consented isn’t complicated. They didn’t. End of story.
Since 2012, The Independent reports, CICA has rejected payment claims to approximately 700 alleged victims of child abuse. It’s safe to assume they weren’t all rejected for the same awful reason, but we only know about these “consent” cases because non-profits working on the victims’ behalf brought them to the public’s attention.
How many more don’t we know about?
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)