Child victims of sexual abuse are being denied compensation because a Government agency rules that they “consented” to their abuse, a group of charities has warned.
Charities including Barnardo’s, Victim Support and Rape Crisis say that children as young as 12 are being denied compensation because of evidence that they went along with their abuse.
Children aged under 16 cannot consent to sexual activity under the law, unless they are aged over 13 and the defendant reasonably believed they were over 16.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, which gives out compensation of up to £44,000 to victims of sexual abuse and other crimes, uses a different set of criteria to decide whether victims are eligible for compensation.
In evidence submitted to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse last year, Barnardo’s said that CICA had responded to a claim from one of the children it supported by saying that “it considers consent as a question of fact, and this determines eligibility for compensation.
“A victim can consent in fact even though in law they may be deemed not to have consented.”
The charities say that as a result children are being made to feel that they are to blame for the abuse.
One case highlighted by 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.
In another case a girl who was raped and sexually assaulted at the age of 14 by a gang of men aged over 30 was denied compensation because “she had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts”.
In another case cited by Barnardo’s, a boy who was groomed online from the age of 13 and sexually exploited by 23 men, 21 of whom were found guilty of offences including grooming and sexual assault, was refused compensation because “on balance of probabilities the evidence suggests that [the child] consented in fact to the sexual contact with the individuals concerned.”
His father said: “CICA is in effect telling children ‘you are to blame’ for the abuse you’ve suffered”.
A Freedom of Information request made by Victim Support showed that since the compensation scheme came into effect in 2012 693 cases where compensation for child sexual abuse was claimed from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority have been refused.
The group of charities, which also includes Liberty and the National Working Group, has written to Justice Secretary David Lidington asking for the guidelines to be changed.
Dawn Thomas, Rape Crisis England & Wales co-chair said: “It’s not only bizarre but also inappropriate and harmful that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority applies a different definition of consent from the law and, as a result, routinely tell victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation that they consented to the sexual violence perpetrated against them.”