Why You Should Seek Legal Help For Institutional Sexual Abuse

Financial compensation cannot undo the pain that survivors of institutional sexual abuse suffered. However, the national redress scheme was created as a result of the Royal Commission into sexual abuse. It is a way of recognising the pain that survivors often silently endured. Or, to address the many survivors who received inadequate compensation with no way to challenge it or pursue other means of justice. 

What Is Institutional Sexual Abuse? 

Child sexual abuse involves any sexual activity or touching that involves a person under the age of 18. Institutional sexual abuse is when that abuse occurred whilst those people were under the care of an institution such as the church, school, sports club, camp, or in foster care. It doesn't matter where it happened; it is a breach of trust and a violation of a person's rights. Per child abuse laws in Australia, it is a criminal act and for too long perpetrators got away with it. 

Institutions Under The National Redress Scheme 

Named institutions were given a deadline of the 31st of December 2020 to join the scheme. In joining the scheme, the institution agreed to pay redress to victims and by signing up, acknowledged that the abuse happened, and the victims deserved compensation. Many institutions signed up, including the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of Australia, as well as many others. 

What do you do if the institution responsible for your abuse isn't on the list? You can still make an application, the NRS will contact the institution involved and give them a six-month deadline to join. If they fail to join the scheme they will be publicly identified just as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Kenia Communications were. They are now no longer eligible to receive grant funding from the Australian Government. You can speak to a solicitor if the institution responsible for your abuse fails to sign up as you may be able to pursue a damages claim. 

What Is The National Redress Scheme 

The purpose of the NRS is to recognise the fact that many children were abused by institutions and that has resulted in childhood trauma in adults. It is also intended for victims to have a path to make sexual abuse claims and seek compensation. The National Redress Scheme was one of the Royal Commission's key recommendations, aiming to acknowledge the harm done to child sexual abuse survivors. 

The purpose of the scheme is to help survivors: 

  • Seek payment based on the type of abuse and institution involved. For the most severe cases, the maximum award amount is $150,000.
  • Seek an additional payment for treatment.
  • Obtain a response from the responsible institution, whether it's an apology or an explanation of the steps taken to ensure abuse does not happen again. 

Due to the Royal Commission, changes were made to the laws surrounding redress. Now, if you are a survivor of institutional sexual abuse you have an option in how you choose to seek compensation. 

  • You can make a claim under the National Redress Scheme.
  • You can make a damages claim. 

A Damages Claim 

The Royal Commission encouraged governments to introduce new laws allowing survivors of institutional sexual abuse to bring claims even if decades had passed. The claim process varies from state to state but the principle remains the same. You can claim for the impact of abuse, including any loss of earnings, for pain and suffering, seek reimbursement for treatment, and seek a response from the institution responsible. You will require the services of a solicitor for this as it is a legal claim. There is no cap to how much you can receive from a damages claim. A judge will calculate your payment based on previous claim payments which have run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

National Redress Scheme Claim 

Once you accept a compensation payment from the National Redress Scheme you will not be able to make a damages claim. A damages claim may be higher than the National Redress Scheme payments on offer, so you need to research before you decide which path to take. 

Do you qualify for NRS compensation? You qualify if: 

  • You, as a child, experienced abuse at the hands of an institution.
  • The abuse took place before July 1, 2018.
  • You were born prior to June 30, 2010.
  • You were a permanent resident or Australian citizen at the time of application. 

Why You Should Seek Legal Help Before Applying To The National Redress Scheme 

Child abuse laws in Australia can be difficult to navigate which is why securing a lawyer for a child abuse case is in your best interests. A solicitor can help you with the process and possibly help you receive more compensation than you might do through the National Redress Scheme. Once you apply to the NRS and receive the compensation, you cannot apply again. Our team at AJB Stevens can help you, we will assess your care, provide you with information, and help you make the right decision.

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