Sexual abuse can occur anywhere at any age. The worst abuse typically occurs to children, facilitated by staff at institutions. An ‘institution’ means a type of organisation – such as the Catholic Church, a private or public school, or a Youth Detention Centre.
Roche Legal currently only offers representation for victims of abuse that occurred at (or because of) an institution.
If the staff at one of these institutions misused their position of power to take advantage of a child, that child can claim compensation at any time. Queenslanders who’ve suffered childhood abuse have no time limitation to bring a claim for compensation. Previous time limitations existed but were abolished in 2017 following the Royal Commission into childhood sexual abuse.
Our lawyers understand that if you have suffered abuse that you are in pain and that your trust may have been betrayed. We cannot ever make it right, but we can give you a voice and the legal support to get some justice through compensation. The guilty will not acknowledge their wrong-doing voluntarily – so making a claim can bring you one step closer to reclaiming your life.
If you use our legal services, we will support you the entire way and promise to keep everything 100% confidential.
Childhood Sexual Abuse Statistics
Based on private interviews with 6,875 survivors of abuse, the Royal Commission into Institutional Sexual Abuse reported that more than half of childhood sexual abuse were male. Half of survivors were aged between 10 and 14 the first time they were abused.
Some of the most common places childhood sexual abuse occurred were:
- Churches or religious places of worship
- Youth Detention Centres
- Sports and Recreation Clubs
We understand that about 1 in 5 adult survivors reporting the abuse felt that nobody would believe them. However, the statistics of abuse speak for themselves. Our lawyers have also had enough conversations with victims to understand exactly what can happen to a child placed in a vulnerable position.
We also know that a common reason for not reporting the abuse at the time may have justifiably been due to fear of retribution. In fact, the statistics indicate that survivors took 23.9 years (on average) to tell someone they had been sexually abused as a child.
Our role is to help you fight back, now, to claim compensation for the damage suffered considering that psychiatric injuries developed in most survivors of the abuse. The psychological impact is typically permanent, impacting on a victim throughout all stages of life.
Your Options to Making an Institutional Abuse Claim
Your potential avenues to access compensation in relation to the childhood sexual abuse are:
(1) Making an Application through the National Redress Scheme; or
(2) Pursuing a Common Law Claim for Damages for personal injuries (civil litigation).
Making the wrong decision could cause you to miss out on hundreds of thousands of dollars. It costs nothing to discuss the best options available for your circumstances with one of Roche Legal’s abuse lawyers.
If you’re considering making a claim for childhood institutional abuse, we recommend contacting one of our abuse lawyers for a free consultation.
Option 1: The National Redress Scheme
The National Redress Scheme has been in place since 1 July 2018 and in that regard, is a relatively new scheme and system for accessing compensation for victims of childhood sexual abuse. There are various requirements which need to be considered when establishing whether you are eligible to access compensation under the redress scheme, such as:
- You have been a victim of sexual abuse;
- You were under 18 years of age at the time of the abuse;
- The abuse occurred before 1 July 2018;
- The abuse occurred while you were under the care of an institution which has opted into the scheme (see a list of institutions);
- You were an Australian citizen at the time of the abuse;
- You are not currently in gaol and have never been incarcerated; and
- You have not already received a court ordered payment with respect to the abuse from the institution.
There are three components of the redress scheme which constitute the assistance you will receive:
- Free counselling;
- A direct personal response from the institution;
- Redress payment of up to $150,000 (maximum).
Components 1 and 2 above are the same for all survivors of abuse and you will have the opportunity to access them.
Because of the maximum payment of only $150,000, we do not recommend making a claim through this scheme without first talking to a lawyer. Chances are you may be entitled to much more.
Option 2: Common Law Claim for Damages (Civil Litigation)
A common law claim is a civil claim based in tort. It is a claim for damages for personal injuries arising out of the abuse you were subjected to as a minor whilst under the care of the institution. Unlike the redress scheme, the maximum damages payable to you is not capped. For this reason, it is at least worth making a free phone call to us to find out which pathway you should go down. Most of the time, in cases against an institution, a common law claim will yield vastly greater compensation to you than the Redress Scheme will provide.
There are two major aspects to a common law claim. The first is liability (including limitation arguments) and the second is quantum (the amount) of damages. To obtain any amount of money as compensation it is necessary to first establish that the institution is liable for the abuse you have suffered.
To establish liability, you must demonstrate on the balance of probabilities that the Respondent:
- owed you a duty of care; and
- breached that duty of care (for example, the Respondent was aware, or ought to have been aware that the perpetrator had a propensity to inflict the type of abuse that he did, perhaps because he had done this before and the respondent knew that); and
- as a result of that breach, you suffered an injury (usually of a psychiatric nature – but injuries suffered can vary).
If you were to be successful in proving fault on the part of the institution, the amount of compensation you would receive is assessed in accordance with common law principles. The way that the amount of compensation is calculated under a civil claim for damages is by reference to several “Heads of Damage”. These include the following:
- General Damages (Pain and Suffering)
- Past and Future economic loss (loss of earnings or earning capacity)
- Loss of Past and Future Superannuation
- Interest on your past losses; and
- Out of pocket expenses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will you run my sexual abuse claim No Win No Fee?
Yes. Roche Legal offers No Win No Fee representation to those with a qualifying sexual abuse claim. Part of the qualification process for our firm is that the abuse occurred at the premises of an organisation (such as a school, boarding school, church, or childcare centre, etc.). Contact us for a free initial consultation. We have offices in Brisbane, Springwood, and the Sunshine Coast.
Do I need a lawyer to make a sexual abuse claim?
Whilst it may be possible for some people to make a claim through the National Redress Scheme on their own without legal assistance, it may not be the smartest option to do so. It is vital to seek legal advice first prior to deciding which compensation pathway you take.
In many instances, the common law claim pathway yields much higher compensation – however this requires expert representation. We will not pretend that it is easy. It is important not only to stay strong but to also have strong lawyers. We will sit with you and go through the process so that you understand what is involved and what your legal rights are.
How we approach each claim for sexual abuse depends on the circumstances. Sometimes we might go through a full legal process whilst in other cases we might seek to obtain an informal settlement without the need for litigation. The appropriate strategy will be discussed with you in advance.
Claims such as these are one way to take back some control of your life – and even if you have already done this – it can help provide vindication and justice.
Who do I bring the claim against?
Abuse claims can be brought against the individual that was responsible for the abuse and/or the institution that allowed it to occur or continue.
Roche Legal currently only take on claims for institutional abuse – this means we only accept claims where the abuser was an institution/organisation such as the Catholic Church or another religious body, the State of Queensland, or a private school for example.
What can I claim compensation for?
We may seek compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering incurred
- Emotional, physical and psychological distress
- Past, present and future medical treatment costs
- Any past, present and/or future loss of income
- Nursing assistance
- Paid home help
- Assistance by friends and family
What we claim for will vary from individual to individual, depending upon their respective circumstances.
Will my sexual abuse claim be kept private?
We understand talking about the past can be extraordinarily difficult. You can take your time and communicate with us however you feel most comfortable, be it in person, at your home, in our office, over the phone, email or even text message. Our experienced and compassionate lawyers will keep everything 100% private and confidential to give you peace of mind.
For the legal proceedings themselves, it’s possible to avoid having your name published by a suppression order. These orders made by a court to prohibit the publication of your name (or other information) in the interests of justice.
What has to be proven for my sexual abuse claim to be successful?
You have to prove the incident or incidents in question occurred. This can sometimes be difficult so our lawyers will assist you however possible. You also must be able to identify the perpetrator. Further, if the perpetrator is no longer alive, you must be able to prove that the institution knew, or ought to have known, about the abuse – this is best achieved by records/reports of complaints about the perpetrator that pre-dated the subject abuse.
How does the National Redress Scheme calculate the compensation payable to me?
The amount of money a person can receive depends on their individual experience of sexual abuse as written in their application.
Redress payments are calculated as follows:
Kind of sexual abuse of the person
Recognition of sexual abuse
Recognition of impact of sexual abuse
Recognition of related non-sexual abuse
Recognition person was institutionally vulnerable
Recognition of extreme circumstances of sexual abuse
Only one item of each of the above columns from the table can be relevant to a person (because an item covers all of the sexual abuse of the person that a participating institution is responsible for that is within the scope of the Scheme).
- Using Column 2 of the table above, the highest monetary payment based on the sexual abuse described in the application, will apply even if the person experienced more than one kind of sexual abuse.
- If the person writes about the impact the sexual abuse had on their life, the corresponding recognition of impact payment in Column 3 will apply.
- Column 4 applies if the person writes of related non-sexual abuse they experienced, such as violence, psychological abuse, or neglect.
- Column 5 applies if the person’s care arrangements made them more vulnerable to abuse (such as being placed in a youth detention centre).
- Column 6 can be applied where the person experienced penetrative abuse and the Independent Decision Maker determines the person’s experience meets the criteria for extreme circumstances.
The maximum redress payment a person can receive under the Scheme is $150,000.
Are there any important time limits to bring a claim for sexual abuse?
Civil Claims for Sexual Abuse:
- If you were sexually abused as a child in Queensland, New South Wales, or Victoria, there is no time limit to bring a civil claim for compensation. Prior to 2016, time limits did exist but these limits have since been removed.
- If you were abused as an adult, you have three (3) years from the date the abuse occurred to bring a civil claim against the offender. However, it may be possible to bring a claim outside this time limit – depending upon the circumstances.
National Redress Scheme Claims:
- The National Redress Scheme started on 1 July 2018 and will run for 10 years. You can make an application any time between now and 30 June 2027.
Department Claims for Sexual Abuse and/or Sexual Harassment/Discrimination:
- If you wish to make a complaint through the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (a process we strongly recommend) you have 12 months from the date of the incident to do so. The Commission can accept a complaint after 12 months has expired if there are good reasons for the delay.
- If you wish to make a complaint through the Australian Human Rights Commission, you have 12 months from the date of the incident to do so. The Commission can accept a complaint after 12 months has expired if there are good reasons for the delay.
- Update: For acts that took place after 13 April 2017, the timeframe for lodging complaints alleging unlawful discrimination is 6 months.
We cannot stress enough the importance of getting legal advice if you have been a victim of abuse so that you are not a victim of the legal system.
How long does a compensation claim for sexual abuse take?
For claims made under the National Redress Scheme, a decision is usually made about 12 months after the lodgement of your application.
For common law claims, it depends on several factors including:
- How easy or difficult it is to prove the abuse occurred.
- Whether or not the offending party is still alive or the organisation at fault still in existence.
- How committed you are to seeing it through.
- The attitude of the person or organisation at fault.
We believe the quickest way to achieve a positive outcome satisfactory to you is to proceed to trial as quickly as possible whilst always remaining open to the possibility of an out of court settlement.
We do not believe in never-ending negotiations that may ultimately fail, if the responsible institution does not negotiate fairly in good faith, with a reasonable offer made to you, we will institute formal court proceedings against them without delay.
Time delayed is time wasted. Justice delayed is justice denied. Contact us now for a strictly confidential and obligation free consultation.