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SEXUAL ABUSE CLAIMS

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Sexual abuse claims processes in Australia

In Australia, there are a number of processes available to survivors of sexual abuse. While the criminal law is equipped to deal with perpetrators of sexual assault, this process often leaves victims feeling vulnerable and without compensation for the short and long term suffering they are forced to endure as a result of their abuse.

Victims Support Schemes

In Australia, each State will have available a victims support scheme which aims to provide counselling, limited financial assistance and recognition payments for victims of violent crime. Note that generally, any applications for financial assistance will need to be made within 2 years of the sexual abuse taking place, due to time limits in each State. It is therefore important to act quickly, as these time limits will impact your ability to access the help that is available.

For a free and confidential consultation on whether you may be entitled to access assistance under the victims support scheme available in your State, please do not hesitate to reach out to our personal injury lawyers, who can advise you on the claims process and refer you to the most appropriate support services.

In NSW, survivors of sexual abuse can contact the Victims Services division of the Department of Communities and Justice to seek assistance from the victim support scheme.

In NSW, sex abuse survivors are entitled to the following (subject to time limits for any financial assistance):

  1. 22 hours of free counselling, with the option for more where required;
  2. Financial assistance to meet immediate needs of victims of sexual abuse, up to $5,000 to assist with any urgent expenses;
  3. Ongoing financial assistance to help with any economic losses or out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the sexual assault (including lost earnings, medical expenses, justice-related expenses and compensation for lost or damaged items such as clothing).
  4. Recognition payments – these are designed to recognise the trauma of the survivor of sexual abuse, and range from $1,500 to $15,000.

Similar schemes also exist in Victoria, Queensland and other Australian states. For a confidential discussion with our legal team on whether you may be entitled to seek support from a victims support service, please contact our expert personal injury lawyers about how you can seek assistance with your sexual abuse claim in your jurisdiction.

National Redress Scheme

The Royal Commission uncovered systemic historical child sex abuse being perpetrated in a range of institutional contexts across Australia, including sporting clubs, schools, and the Catholic church. The Royal Commission recommended the National Redress Scheme as a way of acknowledging the extent of sex abuse committed in these institutions, to recognise the suffering faced by those survivors of child sex abuse, and to hold those institutions accountable for those entrusted with caring for often vulnerable young Australians.

The National Redress Scheme is available to victims of child sex abuse, and has two main support services available:

  1. Processing applications for compensation claims from claimants who have suffered as a victim of child sex abuse; and
  2. Providing Redress Support Services – aimed at providing “free, confidential emotional support and legal and financial counselling for people thinking about or applying for the Scheme.”

The National Redress Scheme is open for applicants until 30 June 2027.

Contact our expert legal team today, to discuss whether the National Redress Scheme might be available and suitable to your matter. If you have suffered from the effects of child sexual abuse, our personal injury lawyers are well-equipped to provide honest, confidential and caring legal advice about how the Scheme might help you.

Civil Litigation

Survivors of sexual abuse can also choose to make a civil claim against the perpetrator of sexual abuse, and pursue a compensation claim through the Courts. This is a more complex, time-consuming and costly legal process, however does allow abuse survivors to make a legal claim either against an individual or against the institution employing an individual who commits sex abuse. For victims of sexual abuse who want compensation for the sexual abuse they have suffered, making a civil claim is often the best way of obtaining the most fruitful outcome.

In order to pursue a civil claim, it is critical that you obtain sound legal advice and representation to ensure the best outcome for you. Given the emotional stress involved in civil litigation and the often complex legal processes required to determine civil claims, representation is vital to ensure that you are well-equipped to receive the compensation you deserve.

In addition, limitation periods applicable in each Australian jurisdiction mean that time limits apply to making of civil claims for personal injury, including physical abuse and sexual abuse. 

While civil litigation can be a costly method of seeking compensation, many civil claims are resolved through settlement negotiation, prior to the matter being heard in Court. Our expert legal team is available to guide you through this process, to represent you in any correspondence and negotiations, and to fight for your right to any compensation to which you are entitled.

Our personal injury lawyers are experienced in managing the civil claims process, including representing you in any settlement negotiations and in civil litigation, where settlement negotiations fail.

Disclaimer

The above is general legal information and should not be considered legal advice. You should speak with one of our migration lawyers for legal advice tailored to your specific legal matter. The courts and tribunals deal with matters on a case by case basis. It should also be noted that there may be delays due to COVID-19.

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Frequently Asked Questions.

As opposed to criminal proceedings, there are a few advantages to civil claims. First, the standard of proof required to prove that sexual abuse occurred is lower. All that is required is that you show it is more likely than not that the sexual abuse took place. Secondly, civil litigation allows survivors of sexual abuse to seek compensation in the form of damages. These damages are not limited in the way victims support services or national redress schemes are. Thirdly, civil claims can be made against an employer or institution if it can be proven that the organisation was negligent in allowing the sexual abuse to take place. This often increases the compensation available to sex abuse victims.

No. A civil claim is entirely separate to criminal proceedings, and you may prove a civil claim even in the absence of any charges being laid upon the perpetrator of sexual abuse. Such charges or convictions do however assist in establishing a civil claim.

For advice on whether a civil claim might be right for you and for more information on our legal services, please contact our experienced personal injury legal team for a free consultation. We can guide you through how the legal processes might apply to your matter, and whether you may be entitled to make a compensation claim for any physical abuse (including sexual abuse) that you may have suffered.

If a civil claim is successful in establishing liability, a victim of sexual assault is entitled to make a compensation claim for damages for a range of loss and/or damage, provided that loss or damage is also proven. These include pain and suffering, loss of earnings, mental harm, any medical or treatment costs, among others. For a confidential discussion of what compensation you may be entitled to, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers today.

Unfortunately, claimants in respect of historical child sexual abuse under the National Redress Scheme cannot also pursue a civil claim for damages.

This will depend on the time limits applicable in your jurisdiction, the nature of the claim, and the legal processes available to you. If your matter relates to child sex abuse (generally, including physical abuse), no time limits apply to the bringing of a civil compensation claim. 

For personal injury claims for sexual assault, limitation periods will generally be three years from the date of the offence. This can however be complicated by a number of factors such as whether the abuse is isolated or ongoing and where the abuse took place, and we recommend seeking legal advice on whether you remain entitled to make a compensation claim.

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