The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is an executive agency of the UK Government. The agency administers compensation for injuries caused to victims of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are eligible to make a claim under the scheme and as an ISVA, this group of individuals make up a large portion of my case load. Invariably victims struggle to cope with the effects of their experiences and inevitably some of these victims will resort to drugs and alcohol misuse, self-harming, suicide, anti-social behaviour, criminal activity and so on. On the basis of victims having unspent convictions, claims for compensation made by blameless victims of crime can be severely reduced or even refused.
Clearly as a society we would never advocate a system whereby people are rewarded for leading a life of crime, however, surely there is a debate to be had around what our expectations should be in relation to such victims. Early sexualisation (sometimes perpetrated by family members and blood relatives) impacts on young people’s lives relentlessly and leaves them vulnerable to further abuse. Frequently victim’s disclosures are withheld until much later when survivors feel in a better position to ‘deal’ with the issue or as often happens, a further incident occurs and this triggers thoughts around the earlier abuse.
Some victims may seek counselling or other therapeutic interventions in an attempt to help them understand what has happened, why they were not protected from such abuse and how they are going to come to terms with their experiences and move forward in life. Others will be unable or unwilling to access such support for various reasons and will seek a safe place form their thoughts in less constructive ways.
Unlike physical injuries, emotional scarring does not necessarily reduce with time and victims of childhood sexual abuse inevitably begin their journey through life a good deal further behind the starting line than the rest of us. Surely excluding victims from such a compensation scheme serves only to compound their already reduced chances of recovery and success.