Many victims of childhood sexual abuse suffer significant psychological injury as a result of the trauma they have experienced. Some victims of childhood sexual abuse self-harm as a way of dealing with this trauma which often results in physical scars.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm can be described as intentionally injuring/hurting yourself as a way of dealing with difficult and painful feelings. Many victims of childhood sexual abuse self-harm as a way of dealing with painful and distressing memories and feelings arising from the trauma they have experienced. There can be no doubt that self-harm is painful but, in some instances, it acts as a release and/or a way of regaining control over the body. The act of self-harm is usually done in private and is rarely a one-off episode. The relief is short-lived as those who self-harm usually find themselves in a vicious circle, which can also be crushing to their self-esteem.
Common forms of self-harm include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Picking at skin
- Hair pulling
In many instances, self-harm leaves physical scars (which vary in visibility depending on the nature of the injuries that caused the scarring). Such scars are likely to be on the arms or legs but can also be on the stomach and cannot be permanently removed. They can be a source of embarrassment and many people attempt to conceal their scars by wearing long sleeves or trousers even through the summer.
However, it may be possible to improve the appearance of the scarring or conceal it by using specialist cosmetic 'camouflage' make up.
What is camouflage make up?
Cosmetic camouflage make-up is the use of highly pigmented (coloured) make up that is specifically formulated to conceal scarring skin conditions and/or blemishes by blending with the subject’s individual skin tone.
Can the costs of skin camouflage be included in a civil claim?
The simple answer to this is yes. If a victim of childhood sexual abuse has self-harm scars the cost of camouflage make-up can be included as a financial loss. In order to support this, it will be necessary to obtain a report from an expert in camouflage make-up.
This report can be prepared using good quality photographs (particularly if the claimant is young and not expected to use camouflage make up for some years) or following an appointment in person (preferable when dealing with an adult). In their report the expert will outline the full costs involved in purchasing the camouflage make up and any tools associated with this, i.e. brushes, applicator sponges, removal tools and lotions.
If the subject of the report is a child, they will comment on any expected changes to their skin tone and whether further assessments will be required in later years.
Your lawyer will then calculate the annual recommended expenditure on camouflage make-up, and multiply it by the required number of years, to give a total cost. This sum will be included in your civil compensation claim.
How long does camouflage make up last?
In recent years camouflage make up products have vastly improved. The products provide better coverage and when applied properly will stay in place for a day or so or until they are removed. If applied correctly they should not smudge or streak/melt in the heat and rain. Following application of the make up a setting spray can be used which helps the make up stay in place.
Can I purchase camouflage make up myself?
It is possible to purchase these products online but as the success of the make-up depends on matching it with skin type it is always preferable to be assessed by an expert who can assess your skin tone and advise you as to what products are best suited to you.
What can I expect from an expert in camouflage make up?
The expert will usually arrange to meet with you to assess your skin tone. A proficient expert will understand that this may be the first time that you’ve shown your scars to anyone and will understand the anxiety, upset and embarrassment, this may cause you. They will advise you on the best ways to cover your scarring and the most effective products to use. They will show you how to apply, maintain and remove the camouflage make up to achieve the best results. They will also advise you on where to buy the products. Importantly, they will be honest about the results that you can expect to achieve. In some cases, it may not always be possible to cover scarring completely. The British Association of Skin Camouflage offer training and may be able to assist with locating an appropriate expert.
Can my GP help me to access camouflage make-up?
Your GP may agree to refer you to a charitable organisation such as ‘Changing Faces’ a leading charity for those in the UK with ‘visible differences’.
Camouflage make-up is usually considered as a final option once all other avenues have been exhausted. It is constantly evolving and valuable to those (including victims of childhood sexual abuse) who wish to cover self-harm scarring.
This make-up can assist with building confidence and self-esteem which in turn will hopefully lead to a better quality of life. We have represented several victims of childhood sexual abuse who have residual scarring as a result of self-harm and successfully recover the cost of camouflage make-up as part of the overall settlement.