Are you are a survivor of childhood sexual and institutional abuse?
Over the past few years, the too-long ignored issue of child abuse in religious and government institutions has been placed under the spotlight. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that ran from 2013 to 2017 heard submissions from thousands of people who shared their stories of sexual and physical abuse by clergy, teachers, guardians, carers and other authority figures. More than 2,500 cases were referred to the police.
And yet, it is estimated that as many as 60% of child abuse victims are still to come forward and disclose their experiences.
Many people who were abused as children carry feelings of shame, fear and distrust, which is normal and understandable. Others have spent a lifetime trying to forget what happened, especially if previous attempts to seek help were ignored or, worse still, led to punishment and further abuse. It is no surprise that those who gave evidence at Commission’s private sessions had taken an average of 24 years to come forward.
An easier path to compenation
As a result of the Royal Commission, legislation has been changed to make it easier for survivors to claim damages. Previous time limits on lodging claims were removed. Anyone who had been previously pressured by an institution to accept an insufficient settlement is now free to have their claim reassessed.
Who can make an institutional abuse claim?
Any person who suffered abuse as a child while under the care of a government or non-government organisation like an orphanage, school, youth group or church can claim compensation for the injury caused. The abuse may be historical or recent. Claims are made under common law because the institution failed to protect the child from abuse and is responsible for the action of their employees and representatives.
What compensation can I claim?
Although no amount of money can replace a stolen childhood, receiving financial compensation is an important part of the process of helping you restore your life to what it may have been if not for the abuse.
For many survivors, a formal apology and recognition of the injury inflicted on them is an equally important part of any compensation.
Financial compensation can be awarded for:
- pain, suffering and the impact on quality of life
- loss of income – past and future
- medical and out-of-pocket expenses – past and future
- the cost of care and assistance services
In most cases, the amount awarded will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Do I need evidence of my abuse?
The most crucial evidence is your recollection of what happened to you and how the abuse took place. This can be very difficult and traumatic for someone who has tried to suppress the memories for many years. We recognise that for some people, this may be the first time they have told their story.
The experienced team at Carbone Lawyers will create a comfortable, safe and confidential environment. We may also need to access personal documents such as school and medical records. Based on this information, we will advise you on the best course of legal action to get the best outcome possible.
Will the police need to be involved?
All incidences of child abuse should be reported to the police, regardless of how long ago they occurred. Victoria Police established the SANO Task Force to investigate historic and new allegations of child sexual abuse in institutions. Even if you decide not to proceed with legal action, the information you give the police about your experience may contribute to other investigations.
Will I be required to appear in court?
At Carbone Lawyers, our objective is to achieve an out of court settlement and avoid going to court if possible. Considering the horrific evidence presented during the Royal Commission, institutions are more willing to negotiate a fair settlement and avoid a court case.
However, if a satisfactory settlement can’t be agreed upon, it may be necessary to start legal proceedings against the institution.
Is this part of the National Redress Scheme?
No, the National Redress Scheme (NRS) set up by the Federal Government in response to the Royal Commission is a voluntary scheme which means not all institutions are participating. Redress payments are based on the type of abuse that took place, and compensation is capped at $150,000 for the very worst cases of abuse. In most cases, it will be less than this and significantly less than most damages claims. It is also important to note that accepting compensation from the NRS stops you from pursuing a common law claim. Furthermore, decisions made under the NRS are limited to internal review, and as they are final, cannot readily be appealed.
If you are considering seeking compensation under the NRD, we urge you to speak with a lawyer before making any decisions so you understand all your options and which is best for you.
What are the fees involved?
Carbone Lawyers undertakes all Institutional Abuse cases on a no-win-no-fee basis, which means we will only charge professional fees if your claim is successful. These will all be set out and explained to you before we take on your case.