Child Abuse Claims – Out of Time?

There are two main ways that victims of sexual abuse can recover compensation. These are:

1) Criminal Injuries Compensation

The relevant Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 2005 (WA) provides that claims must be bought within three years (which can be extended) and you must have actively assisted the Police. Another disadvantage is that damages are “capped” at certain jurisdictional limits.

2) Common Law Damages

Through bringing a civil action directly against the abuser for the harm suffered. Many such claims cannot be bought as they are outside the “limitation period”, discussed further below.

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Limitation Periods are time limits in which legal proceedings must be commenced. In Western Australia, actions for personal injury must (generally) be commenced within 3 years from the date on which it happened. There are exceptions that arise for children who are injured, with a further distinction made between children who were under 15 at the time of the injury, and between the ages of 15-18 years.

Given the traumatic nature of sexual abuse, many victims and survivors of child sexual abuse do not report their abuse for many years, even decades. Many survivors are unable to disclose their abuse until they reach adulthood. Some survivors do not ever disclose the abuse they have suffered.

The limitation periods (generally 3 years) for these matters are simply put, inappropriate and ineffective. With the strict application of the limitation period, any option for seeking compensation has generally ceased before the victim has even disclosed the abuse because the victim is deemed ‘out of time’.

“The statute is designed for someone who has tripped over in K-Mart, it is not designed for victims of child sexual abuse”[1]

 

 

Research findings from the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have revealed that on average, it took survivors 22 years to disclose abuse. It was also found that men took longer than women to disclose abuse.[2]

As a result of the Royal Commission, the different States and Territories in Australia are reviewing their limitation period laws. In 2015, Victoria was the first State to enact changes to the limitation period laws by introducing a Limitation of Actions Amendment (Child Abuse) Act 2015. In introducing this Act, the Victorian Attorney General, the Honorable Martin Pakula stated:

“The trauma of child abuse can prevent victims from seeking immediate redress for the suffering they have caused, so our laws need to account for this – not penalise people for it……. This is about giving victims greater access to justice, allowing their suffering to be rightfully acknowledged and holding those to blame to account for the harm they’ve caused.”

In Western Australia, an amended Bill introduced by Liberal MP Graham Jacobs seeks to remove the limitation period completely for personal injury claims arising from child sexual abuse. (The Limitation Amendment (Child Sexual Abuse Actions) Bill 2015.)

If introduced, this means: if you have suffered physical or mental injuries as a victim of child sexual abuse in Western Australia, the proposed legislation will allow you to take civil action seeking compensation, regardless of how long ago it occurred.

We are eagerly following the progress of this Bill through Parliament.

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Our commitment to you: 

At Templar Legal, we strive to make the compensation process as simple as possible.  With personal attention, dedication to your case, and a team committed to achieving the best result possible, you can rest assured that you are in good hands.

Dedicated assistance: 

We all know the frustration of being passed from person to person, none of whom are sufficiently familiar with your case. At Templar Legal your case will not be handed around the office. We take the view that as all cases evolve over time, the lawyer with whom it starts should be the lawyer who completes it. We have both male and female lawyers who will be able to assist you in these matters.

 

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Please note the following services that provide support for sexual assault victims:

1800 RESPECT 
1800 737 732
Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence counselling phone and webchat. Free 24/7
1800respect.org.au

Bravehearts 
Counselling for survivors and child protection advocacy
1800 272 831
https://bravehearts.org.au/services/do-you-need-support/

Living Well
Online support for male survivors of sexual assault
livingwell.org.au

 

 

[1] “Law changes to be part of abuse solution”, obtained online from: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/09/09/law-changes-be-part-abuse-solution

[2] See discussion paper: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/getattachment/19f08006-ee11-4ef1-97c0-a289ba2a1f92/14-Limitation-periods

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