In the UK, sexually abused children are being denied compensation because they allegedly “consented.” By refusing to give them money, the government is essentially saying that if the child was not completely traumatized by the abuse, then nothing wrong happened, which is completely absurd and must be changed.
According to reports, since 2012, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority in Great Britain has refused to give over 700 sexual abuse victim’s under the age of 18 anywhere between £1,000-£44,000 in restitution. Of the 700 children, 30 of them were denied money because they somehow “consented” to their abuse.
For example, in one case, the court refused to give a 14-year-old girl who was raped and sexually abused by a gang of older men any money because they claimed that “she had not been the victim of non-consensual sexual acts.” They ruled that, as a 14-year-old minor, it was possible for her to consent to sex with several men over the age of 30. Unsurprisingly, their decision devastated the victim and left her feeling like she was responsible for the abuse she suffered.
In another case, a 12-year-old girl who was raped by a 21-year-old man in the woods was denied money, even though her abuser pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 13, because she went into the woods “voluntarily,” had not been a victim of violence, emerged “happily” from the woods, and had recently had sexual relations with another child around her own age.
But clearly, their reasoning is absolutely ridiculous. First, “volunteering” to do something and getting abused in the process does not mean the victim shouldn’t be compensated. That would be like claiming a child who was kidnapped and abused “volunteered” to get in the back of a van, and therefore, wasn’t really harmed. Doing so would wrongly blame the victim for the actions of the perpetrator.
Second, not being a victim of violence does not mean that she wasn’t abused. It’s possible to sexually abuse people without resorting to violence. It just happens to be more subtle. Claiming that violence wasn’t used overlooks this fact.
Third, a victim’s emotional state afterward is also largely irrelevant to whether or not they were abused. People cope with trauma in different ways. Some become completely depressed, others try to laugh and smile and act like it didn’t affect them. Emerging “happily” from the woods does not mean she wasn’t abused.
And fourth, having sexual relations after being abused does not mean the abuse didn’t happen or that the person wasn’t harmed by the abuse. Some abuse victim’s stop having sex, others don’t let it affect their sex lives. Since both outcomes are possible, a victim’s sex life is mostly irrelevant.
Fortunately, several charities in the UK understand this. Outraged by the obvious injustice, they are currently working together to change the law so that the courts cannot rule that a child consented to their abuse. One of the main things they’ve done so far is write a letter to David Lidington, the Justice Secretary, demanding that he fix the law regarding children and consent.
Martha Spurrier, the Director of Liberty, a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting human rights and one of the charities pushing Lidington to reform the law, claimed it was a “disgrace” to deny compensation to minors on the grounds that they consented to their abuse.
“For a state agency to tell children who have survived these horrific crimes that they did consent – and deny them compensation – is a disgrace. The Government must urgently change these guidelines,” claimed Spurrier, adding, “grooming is brainwashing – perpetrators manipulate children into situations that look like consent. No child can consent to abuse, which is why the criminal law rightly says they are simply unable to do so.”
In response to the outrage, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) launched an investigation. “The issue of compensation for victims is currently being examined by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, and the Ministry of Justice is contributing to its important work,” explained an MOJ spokesman, adding, “child sexual abuse is abhorrent and this government is committed to doing everything possible to support victims. We will look closely at the concerns raised by these charities that some victims are not getting the compensation they deserve.”
Although the law in the UK was designed to protect children, in reality, it is actually harming them. The government must change the law so that children who were sexually abused get the compensation they deserve. Until they do, it’s likely that victims of abuse will continue to be denied compensation.