There are many questions that likely remain unanswered, and it is not uncommon for victims of abuse - childhood abuse in particular - to not disclose details of their ordeal until adulthood. We recognise these challenges after years working with abuse victims and helping them seek justice and redress. The resource below contains a collection of our knowledge and content, in the hope of helping answer some of your most difficult questions, and guiding you towards justice. We hope you find some light in this content, and realise that you are not alone and that there are multiple streams of help available.

Types of abuse

Childhood abuse

Childhood sexual abuse is a traumatic experience that can have devastating consequences throughout childhood and deep into adult life. The importance of appropriate support during the time of disclosure and beyond cannot be underestimated.

Child abuse can have a significant impact on people's future, increasing the risk of poorer physical and mental health and poorer social, educational and criminal justice outcomes.

Although not everyone who has been sexually abused will experience mental and emotional difficulties into adulthood, it has been proven that there is a strong, consistent link between sexual abuse and mental health issues such as anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders and suicide attempts.

An evidence review conducted by University of Bedfordshire for Victim Support found that individuals who had experienced sexual abuse as a child were more likely to experience these problems later in life, irrespective of whether they are male or female, or how old they were when the abuse occurred.

There is an even higher risk of experiencing depression, eating disorders, and PTSD amongst those who had been raped as children.

Childhood sexual abuse is often paired with psychological abuse, neglect and breach of trust. This sometimes fosters an inability to form and maintain loving and trusting relationships. Often a child is not able to comprehend the abuse that is happening to them, causing confusion and sometimes self-blame due to manipulation by the perpetrator.

All of these factors lead to the victim not disclosing the abuse and there is a tendency they will carry the trauma with them into adulthood. Surveys conducted by the Office of National Statistics in 2015/2016 revealed that around 3 in 4 victims that suffered assault by rape or penetration as a child had not told anyone about the abuse at the time it happened.

The most common reasons given for not disclosing the abuse were embarrassment or humiliation, or thinking that they would not be believed.

Institutional abuse

For many the term ‘institutional abuse’ can conjure up images of huge Dickensian establishments, like Haut de la Garenne in Jersey, where unspeakable crimes were carried out on orphan children by the very people who were entrusted with their care.

But institutional abuse can also be much ‘closer to home,’ in that it is simply the mistreatment of children or vulnerable adults by any system of power.

Here, we explore common causes and examples of institutional abuse and offer advice on first steps for survivors seeking justice and compensation.

A common denominator of institutional abuse is that it occurs when there is an imbalance of power within an organisation. The organisation may also be systemically weak, without the proper structure or oversight.

In formal settings, institutional abuse can occur when staff are inadequately trained or poorly supervised or if they are not managed or resourced properly. Often too there may be a ‘closed culture,’ where input from the outside is strongly resisted and where there is very little transparency within the organisation.

Institutional abuse can take place in a wide range of public organisations including:

  • schools
  • children’s homes
  • within the NHS (including hospitals and therapeutic centres)
  • in emergency children’s placements
  • in foster homes
  • in group homes

It can also often permeate non-residential environments such as:

  • religious organisations and communities
  • youth sport (football being a recent case in point)
  • the Scouts and Cadets
  • out of school activities such as drama clubs or youth groups

Institutional abuse can also happen within families, ranging from neglect to physical and sexual abuse.

In some cases, it can involve more than one abuser who may sometimes, but not always, deliberately work together.

There may be a number of people experiencing the same abuse at the hands of one or more abusers and often without realising that they are not alone.

Speaking out against institutional abuse takes great courage. The structure and leadership of the organisation in which a person has been, or is being, abused is often very powerful. In many cases the organisation will want to do everything possible to protect their image.

Sometimes a survivor of institutional abuse may have mixed feelings about reporting their abuse, perhaps because they also have some good memories alongside the negative ones.

But while speaking out for the first time may seem an impossible task, when you feel compelled to do something about it there are many professionals and organisations that can assist you.

Abuse in religious institutions

Abuse in the muslim community

Sadly, in recent years we have almost become accustomed to stories in the press about individuals using positions of authority to sexually abuse those that are vulnerable, such as children. There has been much media attention on the wrongdoings of members of the clergy such as former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball. An independent report into the horrific crimes he committed against children, over a period of 20 years or more, was published in June 2017. It accused the Church of England of “collusion and cover up”.

From a cursory search of online news articles we may be forgiven to hold the view that the majority of crimes against children and young men or women in religious organisations occur in the Christian church, albeit different denominations. However, it is arguable that such offences are just as prevalent in other religious institutions, for example in Islamic institutions such as mosques, but are not as extensively reported as others.

Imams are important figures of the Muslim community. They are given immense respect and therefore have considerable influence and power. Along with being the leader of the mosque, Imams also have the responsibility of teaching young Muslim children about the principles of Islam and how to read the holy book, the Quran. They will undoubtedly come into contact with hundreds of children from their local community yet there is no legal requirement for a criminal records check.

The position of Imams in close-knit communities makes it extremely difficult for children and young people to come forward and report the abuse to their families in the first instance. There is a fear that they will not be believed and will in turn be shunned.

Pressure from families and communities to keep quiet about any abuse suffered seem commonplace and mean that victims often suffer in silence and come to accept that they have no way out from their situation. This adds to the distress of the abuse and can cause traumatic effects on a young person’s development lasting well into adulthood.

Abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness community

Revelations of sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness community in the UK are gradually leaking into the public domain. Although complainants of abuse in the JW community are now trickling forward, certain religious practices and culture strongly militate against coming forward.

Misdemeanours within the Jehovah’s Witness community are dealt with by the ‘two witness’ rule. Allegations of sexual abuse are supposed to be reported to church elders (who are always men), who will take further action if there is a second witness to the offence. If the perpetrator admits the abuse or if there is a second witness they will be called before a judicial committee. This can cause further angst and trauma to the victim.

The difficulty with the two witness rule is that there are rarely witnesses to sexual abuse – the nature of sexual abuse and the evil of it is that it happens in secret.

It has been recorded that victims who report sexual abuse can be “disfellowshipped” for making such allegations. In other words, they are forced to leave both their family and the church; disclosure is therefore prohibitive.

For all its laudable qualities, organised religion once again demonstrates that it can provide the ideal mask for abuse and a ‘secretive’ community in which a predator can thrive.

 

Abuse in the theatre and entertainment industry

Perpetrators included: Rolf Harris, previously the darling of family and children’s TV, who was disgraced when sentenced to nearly 6 years in prison on being found guilty of 12 indecent assaults against four girls. In 2013 and 2014 the ex BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall was prosecuted for similar offences against girls. The public relations guru Max Clifford was found guilty of eight charges of indecent assault against women and girls as young as 15 in 2014, the offences having taken place years ago, between 1977 and 1985. Gary Glitter was jailed at Southwark Crown Court for 16 years in February 2015 for sexually abusing three young girls between 1975 and 1980. Bill Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison in September 2018 for sexual assault.

Other stars have been at the receiving end of sexual assault allegations but have not been convicted include Coronation Street actor Bill Roache who was acquitted after trial.

Celebrities who have been found guilty of sexual offences, or against whom allegations have been made, are simply too numerous to list.

Taylor Swift ranks as one of the notable recent victims of sexual assault. She famously recently won a civil case against an ex-DJ David Mueller, who she alleged grabbed her bottom under her skirt during a pre-concert photo shoot in 2013.

She was awarded a symbolic $1 in compensation, and has pledged to donate to organisations that help defend sexual assault victims. Following the civil trial her lawyer Douglas Baldridge said of it: “It gives courage and inspiration to people, not just women, to have the courage to draw a line, and know where those lines are, of mutual respect to all people”.

He said that Swift asked only for $1 because she did not want to bankrupt Mueller, but rather use this case to send a message to all women that “they will decide what will be tolerated with their body”. Such intention is indeed commendable.

Abuse in the entertainment industry is not limited to the higher circles of those who hold celebrity status. Drama clubs, TV and theatrical production companies can also hold potential for abuse of a sexual nature.

This firm has acted for a victim who was groomed by her drama teacher, almost 20 years her senior, from the age of around 12. She finally entered into a sexual relationship with him at 14, which continued for about 5 years. The ‘relationship’ stifled the victim’s normal teenage development, and caused an adjustment disorder with symptoms of anxiety and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

It is clear that many institutions like the BBC have self servingly turned a blind eye to sexual abuse and assaults. High value entertainers have been protected to ensure programmes get aired, viewing figures are sustained, and ratings are high. It was this culture that enabled someone like Jimmy Savile to be labelled by the police as the most prolific paedophile in British history.

In the context of drama clubs or theatre companies, the relationship between the teacher or producer and the pupil is often allowed to develop in one to one sessions (preparing for exams, say), and can become intimate and intense. There is plenty of scope for physical contact, and emotional vulnerability. Residential trips, and intense rehearsal time present opportunity too.

Adult entertainers, leaders or teachers in the entertainment industry have unfettered access to children, many of whom aspire to be successful like them, or simply want their approval. This relationship allows some to exploit the power they hold as gatekeepers to fame and fortune.

Ultimately, sexual abuse in the entertainment industry is yet another abuse of power as well as a betrayal of trust.

abuse in theatre and entertainment industry

Abuse in sports and the military

The relationship between players and their manager or coach is often key to a team’s success. Players are desperate for playing time, eager to please both their parents and /or their coach. Sometimes this leaves players vulnerable.

Where there are many children vying for limited places, coaches, trainers and scouts hold a privileged position as gatekeeper to these opportunities. When such people are so respected, they can abuse the trust their players have in them.

Sexual offences committed in the context of the military have reached public awareness before: we remember the death of four trainees at Deepcut barracks, and the case of military police trainee, Anne-Marie Ellement, who was found hanged in 2011 after claiming she had been raped by two army colleagues in 2009.

When considering an amendment to the Armed Forces Act 2006 last year, Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Jolly, expressed the belief that men and women who serve in the armed forces deserve the same level of protection as civilians. She said, "sexual assault is a gross violation which can have serious, long-lasting consequences on victims, and unfortunately the military has failed to acknowledge the seriousness of this crime until now".

It would be naive to doubt that a culture of sexual assault might exist in one of Britain's largest youth groups. There is something inherent in the fabric of the military cadets that provides ample opportunity for abuse of this kind.

The structural hierarchy within the institution gives the perpetrator (usually the instructor) the power, license and indemnity to sexually abuse cadets. The cadet instructor has unquestionable authority; the cadet is expected to have unwavering obedience and is trained to follow orders to the letter. The nature of regular cadet activities involving corporate team-building, often with a high degree of physical contact, fosters camaraderie which can be exploited.

The recent Panorama program exposing gargantuan whitewashing of crime by senior figures in the cadets, in different areas of the country, almost defies belief. It highlights a culture of silence, combined with a culture of cover-up, and serious institutional failure.

The figures released are truly shocking: there have been 363 sexual abuse allegations in the last five years, and almost 100 instructors have been dismissed.

Often the affected player does not recognise what is happening to them before it is too late. They find themselves enduring the sexual abuse because they have been so emotionally manipulated by their perpetrator that they simply cannot ask him to stop. The subsequent feelings of shame and the fear of being stigmatized, losing their standing, and indeed their place, in the team further maintains their silence. Not being believed is a major factor in not speaking out. They cannot tell their parents - often equally groomed and duped by the abuser - for fear of letting them down and causing a fuss. In truth, they have become trapped. This feeling of paralysis can remain for years, often decades.

 

Healthcare professionals

During the course of our lifetime most of us will require assistance from healthcare professionals including Consultants, GPs, nurses, therapists or healthcare/hospital workers. It is fair to say that this is a time when we feel at our most vulnerable and in need of reassurance.

The patient / healthcare professional relationship is based on trust. It's natural to believe that the professionals from whom we seek advice will do their best for us by using their expert medical skills and knowledge. In light of this we assume that that the advice we are being given or what we are asked to do is appropriate and in our best interests.

It is for this reason that we rarely question our healthcare practitioners. Whilst the majority of these individuals act with integrity, sadly there are a minority who breach this trust and use their position to abuse their patients/clients for their own gratification.

The role of the GMC

The General Medical Council gives clear guidance in relation to doctors’ sexual behaviour and what steps should be taken if concerns are raised:

“You must not use your professional position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with a patient or someone close to them. To maintain the trust of patients and the public, you must never make a sexual advance towards a patient or display sexual behaviour. Sexual behaviour – for example, making inappropriate sexual comments – does not necessarily involve touching the patient. If a patient tells you about a breach of sexual boundaries, or you have other reasons to believe that a colleague has, or may have, displayed sexual behaviour towards a patient, you must promptly report your concerns to a person or organisation able to investigate the allegation. If you suspect a doctor has committed a sexual assault or other criminal activity, you should make sure it is reported to the police”.

Abuse in schools

Unfortunately, abuse in schools is a common inevitability that transcends class, age, and location, but the unnerving prevalence of institutional abuse in boarding schools is one we cannot ignore. The model of boarding schools present ample opportunities for perpetrators to groom and abuse their victims.

The extent of the opportunities available for predatory paedophiles in institutions such as boarding schools is immense. Staff responsible for the boarders have unfettered access to every aspect of a child’s life and space, from being the first to wake them in the morning to putting them into bed at night.

Indeed, they have access to their proteges throughout the night, matrons or house masters living in very close quarters to them, often in a room adjacent to the dormitory. They supervise showering, personal care, and their social activities.

They have a pastoral role, and are meant to assume the role of a child’s mum or dad.

TV’s recent Exposure documentary published some interesting statistics obtained from the UK police under the Freedom of Information Act:

  • Since 2012, 425 people have been accused of carrying out sexual assaults at UK boarding schools
  • At least 160 have thus far been charged
  • 171 of the 425 people accused related to allegations of ‘non recent’ abuse
  • Since 2012, allegations by children of recent sexual assaults have been made against 125 people
  • There are at least 31 ongoing investigations
  • Only half of the UK police forces responded, so the figures are likely to be much higher

In theory, victims can pursue redress through both the criminal or civil justice routes. Those bold enough to speak out (often later in life) should report their abuse to the police. If their abuser is still alive an investigation and hopefully a prosecution will follow. Some victims derive some closure and satisfaction from seeing their abusers being convicted and sent to prison.

Others don’t have the option of criminal proceedings, because their abuser may have died or suffered from dementia. An alternative for them may be a civil claim against the school, which has the dual benefit of holding the school accountable for their safeguarding failings, and recovering compensation (which can be used for much needed treatment, for example).

Compensation claims against private schools are sadly all too prevalent.

It is open to a victim to pursue justice both in the criminal and the civil courts. A civil compensation claim has greater chances of success where a conviction has been secured.

Child sexual abuse in boarding schools today

The statistics show that it is plain that sexual abuse in boarding schools cannot be consigned to the past. It continues to be an issue even today, and there can be no place for complacency.

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of boarding school, what is vital today is a robust and transparent approach to the safeguarding of children, with a demonstrated openness, honesty and vigilance on the part of all who are meant to care for the children in their charge. Only then is it possible that children in boarding establishments will not suffer the same level of abuse that has happened in the past.

Abuse of the elderly - the safeguarding issue of vulnerable adults

Everyone in our society deserves to be treated with kindness and dignity. So it is especially shocking to discover that some of the most vulnerable adults in our community are at risk of abuse by the very people who are charged with their care.

In February 2017 the Telegraph reported that, over the last three years alone, there had been more than 23,000 allegations of abuse by care home workers against vulnerable adults. Yet of these allegations, just 700 resulted in police action and only 15 ended in prosecutions.The vast majority of the allegations related to care of elderly people in their homes. And more than 9,700 cases involving victims over the age of 80.

The report also suggested that, of the 500,000 people in Britain currently in need of home help assistance, as many as one in 25 may have been victims of abuse.

Elder abuse, as defined by the World Health Organisation, is "a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust (and) which causes harm or distress."

The abuser of a vulnerable adult could be someone already known to them such as a paid care-giver, family-member or friend. Or it may be a stranger who attempts to befriend them. Abuse can occur in the victim's own home or in a residential care home or hospital.

Examples of elder abuse can include:

  • Physical abuse – slapping, hitting, kicking, restraining, false imprisonment and administering improper medication
  • Sexual abuse – sexual contact with a person without their consent. This will include persons who are unable to give consent such as (in the case of an elderly person) those suffering with dementia
  • Psychological abuse - shouting, humiliating, ridiculing, name calling and intimidation
  • Neglect – failure to provide medication, food, drinks and hygiene
  • Financial abuse – unauthorised use of a person’s income and/or assets

Just as there are many types of abuse, there are also many indicators. The following warning signs, while not exhaustive, are some of the most typical:

  • Unexplained bruising, wounds, broken bones and burns
  • Personality changes, behaviour changes
  • Signs of assault around the breasts or genital areas; torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Unexplained missing income
  • Unsanitary conditions, dirty bed linen, poor hygiene
  • Unattended medical needs

In England and Wales the Care Act 2014 set out the legal framework for how local authorities and other parts of the health and care system should protect the elderly and vulnerable adults at risk of abuse or neglect.

The Act provides guidance on the principles of safeguarding; types of abuse and neglect; local authorities’ responsibilities to carry out safeguarding enquiries where concerns are raised; conducting reviews; sharing information and providing independent advocates.

Abuse of any vulnerable adult should be reported straightaway. And if a vulnerable person is in imminent danger, or you believe a crime has been committed, then the police should be notified. It is also possible for the person who has suffered abuse, or in some cases members of their family, to pursue civil claims. Advice should be taken from a solicitor with the necessary expertise in these types of claims.

Our hope is that increased reporting of elder abuse will act as a deterrent and ultimately lead to a reduction in the numbers of vulnerable adults at risk.

abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults

The effects of abuse - psychiatric harm

The most common and significant effect of sexual abuse is psychological rather than physical harm.

For example, if an individual is subject to sexual abuse during childhood and has not been able to disclose it for various reasons they can go into adulthood with mental health difficulties, simply because it has not been possible for them to process the traumatic events that have happened to them.

A recent study on the impact of abuse found that adults abused as children were almost twice as likely to report having a long-standing illness or disability compared with those not abused as a child. This demonstrates the profound and wide-ranging effect that childhood sexual abuse can have many years after it has occurred.

In a child abuse compensation claim it is for the psychological or psychiatric harm that the victim or survivor is compensated. The courts recognise and understand that childhood sexual abuse can cause injury which can significantly affect many aspects of the survivor’s life such as their education, employment and family life. 

Common psychiatric diagnoses in sexual abuse victims include the following:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – This is an anxiety disorder which can involve reliving the traumatic events through nightmares and flashbacks. Symptoms also may include insomnia, lack of concentration and hyperarousal (feeling on edge)
  • Personality Disorder - This is a disorder where the person tends to have ‘disturbed ways of thinking’, impulsive behaviour and problems controlling their emotions
  • Clinical Depression – Symptoms of depression include low mood, feeling hopeless and tearful, irritability, lack of motivation, suicidal thoughts, changes in appetite and disturbed sleep.
  • Alcohol and or drug dependence – This may have stemmed from the onset of other psychiatric illnesses.
  • Adjustment Disorder – This is a collection of symptoms that can occur after going through a traumatic or stressful life event when an individual is unable to cope.

There are a wide range of psychiatric illnesses and symptoms that can occur as a result of child abuse, and the above is not intended to be an exhaustive list.

Medical Expert

If you choose to pursue a civil compensation claim relating to abuse you suffered as a child, it is likely that an expert psychiatrist will be instructed to examine you to produce a medical report.

This report will aim to substantiate any psychiatric conditions that you suffer from and will be used as evidence for your claim. The psychiatrist will set out their opinion on whether they think you fit the diagnosis for a certain psychiatric illness. Usually, they will use one of two classification systems; the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICM).

The effect of trauma

Traumatic life experiences (such as child abuse) can have a significant impact on people's future, increasing the risk of poorer physical and mental health and poorer social, educational and criminal justice outcomes.

Although not everyone who has been sexually abused will experience mental and emotional difficulties into adulthood, it has been proven that there is a strong, consistent link between sexual abuse and mental health issues such as anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders and suicide attempts.

An evidence review conducted by University of Bedfordshire for Victim Support found that individuals who had experienced sexual abuse as a child were more likely to experience these problems later in life, irrespective of whether they are male or female, or how old they were when the abuse occurred.

There is an even higher risk of experiencing depression, eating disorders, and PTSD amongst those who had been raped as children.

Childhood sexual abuse is often paired with psychological abuse, neglect and breach of trust. This sometimes fosters an inability to form and maintain loving and trusting relationships. Often a child is not able to comprehend the abuse that is happening to them, causing confusion and sometimes self-blame due to manipulation by the perpetrator.

All of these factors lead to the victim not disclosing the abuse and there is a tendency they will carry the trauma with them into adulthood. Surveys conducted by the Office of National Statistics in 2015/2016 revealed that around 3 in 4 victims that suffered assault by rape or penetration as a child had not told anyone about the abuse at the time it happened.

The most common reasons given for not disclosing the abuse were embarrassment or humiliation, or thinking that they would not be believed.

Getting help

Therapy or counselling with a qualified professional is intended to bring about psychological restoration and recovery, and is usually wholly beneficial and life changing for a client.

It is likely that a psychiatrist will recommend some form of therapy to treat the illness. These may include, among others:

  • Counselling – This involves talking through your emotional issues with a therapist who will listen and can help in finding ways to deal with these issues.
  • Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – A type of therapy which involves targeting the specific needs of those that are struggling to overcome early trauma. Sessions will usually take place at intervals over a length of time, e.g. weekly sessions for 6 months
  • Eye Movement and Desensitisation and Reprocessing – A form of psychotherapy which assists trauma victims in processing distressing memories and beliefs, commonly used for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress. It can help if you are suffering from intrusive thoughts or nightmares and may make it easier to manage traumatic memories
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - This is another form of therapy that works by looking at the current problems in your life and breaking them down into smaller parts to help towards changing negative feelings.
es-pp-image

What to do if you are a victim of abuse

Report to the Police

It is important that offences are reported as soon as possible after they occur. The more evidence you can present the better, so any diaries or records of complaints made by you will become critical in your legal claim. It is hoped that your perpetrator would be prosecuted and convicted.

Seeking help

It can be extremely difficult to report abuse, but it is vital that those who suffer these crimes are able to come forward to report what has happened and you remain safe from the threat of any repercussions from families or communities. If you have suffered abuse you may want to seek counselling to help with the healing process.

Why it is important to seek help

Given the deep-rooted and complex effects of trauma it is important that those who have suffered abuse as a child seek help and support that is right for them.

Different people go through recovery in different ways and there is no ‘one size fits all’ model. However, seeking help can start the process of recovery, healing, and some closure.

Where you can seek help from

When you feel ready to speak about your experience there are a number of different avenues you can follow to find the support you need.

Confide in friends/family

Some victims may feel they are not ready to disclose their abuse to a stranger. In this case talking through what happened with someone you trust may offer you the support and encouragement you need to take the next step towards recovery. It is a simple step but it may provide you with a new perspective on how to move forward.

Talk to your GP

If you feel that you are suffering from mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression you can consider speaking to your GP who will be able to refer you to a counsellor or other appropriate service provided by the NHS.

The following helplines may be able to assist if you are affected by these issues:

Compensation

Considering taking legal action can be daunting and overwhelming. Many people will wonder where to start, what the process involves and whether they will be able to cope. The following is an attempt to break down the process into simple steps.

 

This is a very complex area of law and there will be many hurdles to overcome along the way. The law is constantly changing and the success of your case may depend on the lawyer you choose. Whilst not exhaustive, you may want to consider the following when choosing the right lawyer to represent you in your claim:

  • Does your lawyer possess skill and expertise in this complex area of law? Is compensation for sexual abuse a significant focus for them? How many years of expertise do they have? Have they been involved in landmark cases?
  • Does your lawyer have a proven track record? What do their previous clients say about them? Ask to see written testimonials and look at their website for further information.
  • Does your lawyer only represent claimants, i.e. survivors of sexual abuse?
  • Are your lawyers accredited? Are they members of ‘APIL’ (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) and/or ‘ACAL’ (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers)
  • Is your lawyer patient? Will he or she afford you the time you need and explain the process in full, no matter how much time that takes? Do they treat you and other people with respect?
  • Is your lawyer willing to travel to meet with you?
  • Is your lawyer open and honest about the costs involved in bringing your claim?

Once you have chosen your lawyer they will invite you to meet with them so that they can take more details regarding the background to your claim and identify the potential defendant, or in some cases, defendants.

An experienced lawyer will not press you for details of the nature of the abuse until you are ready to talk and feel comfortable doing so.

A civil action serves to compensate a victim of abuse who has suffered harm as a result of the abuse in therapy, providing proper redress. A compensation claim would usually (but not always) follow successful criminal proceedings. It can also follow a complaint to the therapist’s registered body.

The legal claim is initially directed at the perpetrator of the abuse who passes it to their insurers, provided they had insurance in place at the relevant time. Insurers would investigate and deal with the claim from then on. If no insurance was in place, the victim’s only remedy is directly against the therapist. This option may be more limited if the therapist does not have any assets to pay any damages (compensation).

It is likely that the funding of your potential case will be explained to you, as your lawyer will understand that this is an area of concern for most clients.

Compensation for psychiatric illness

Compensation for psychiatric illness will depend on the severity of your symptoms and your prognosis. Your legal representative and the court will also look at the guidelines set by the judiciary (the Judicial College Guidelines) and previously decided cases.

In addition to this you may be able to claim financial expenses such as any lost earnings (if your illness has caused you to be unable to work). You may also be able to recover for care, travel to medical appointments and medication.

Treatments such as those outlined above will undoubtedly come at a cost. If it is found that the psychiatric illness that you have been diagnosed with was caused by the abuse suffered then treatment costs can be included in your compensation claim (in line with what the expert has recommended) and may be recoverable from your opponent.

If you decide to pursue a compensation claim for abuse you have suffered, please contact us or download our eBook below for more information.

Court proceedings

It is fair to say that only a small minority of cases conclude at court. However, if the defendant is not willing to settle your case or you cannot agree on the appropriate level of compensation it will be necessary to register your claim at court.

The court will then set a timetable of steps to be taken, concluding in a court hearing date.

These steps typically include the disclosure of all relevant documents by both parties and the exchange of expert evidence and witness statements. Your lawyer will continue to attempt settlement of your case. At trial, you will be represented by your barrister and a judge will decide on the final outcome. You will be fully supported by your lawyer who will understand how daunting attending court can be for their clients.

As previously stated, the above is simply a guide. Hopefully it has provided some useful information about making compensation claims and answered some of the questions that commonly arise. Your lawyer will be pleased to answer any further questions you may have and will do all they can to help you through this process.

court proceedings following abuse

Contact details of charities and authorities

Several specialist organisations exist to provide a listening ear and practical support to those that have experienced abuse and sexual assaults.

Here are some resources and services which may be helpful:

The abuse survivor's guide to making a claim for compensation