CICA and victims of sexual abuse
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is an executive agency of the UK Government. The agency administers compensation for injuries caused to victims of violent crime in England, Scotland and Wales.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse are eligible to make a claim under the scheme and as an ISVA, this group of individuals make up a large portion of my case load. Invariably victims struggle to cope with the effects of their experiences and inevitably some of these victims will resort to drugs and alcohol misuse, self-harming, suicide, anti-social behaviour, criminal activity and so on. On the basis of victims having unspent convictions, claims for compensation made by blameless victims of crime can be severely reduced or even refused.
Clearly as a society we would never advocate a system whereby people are rewarded for leading a life of crime, however, surely there is a debate to be had around what our expectations should be in relation to such victims. Early sexualisation (sometimes perpetrated by family members and blood relatives) impacts on young people’s lives relentlessly and leaves them vulnerable to further abuse. Frequently victim’s disclosures are withheld until much later when survivors feel in a better position to ‘deal’ with the issue or as often happens, a further incident occurs and this triggers thoughts around the earlier abuse.
Some victims may seek counselling or other therapeutic interventions in an attempt to help them understand what has happened, why they were not protected from such abuse and how they are going to come to terms with their experiences and move forward in life. Others will be unable or unwilling to access such support for various reasons and will seek a safe place form their thoughts in less constructive ways.
Unlike physical injuries, emotional scarring does not necessarily reduce with time and victims of childhood sexual abuse inevitably begin their journey through life a good deal further behind the starting line than the rest of us.
Surely excluding victims from such a compensation scheme serves only to compound their already reduced chances of recovery and success.
A Corrosive Silence
On the 14th of July The Duchess of Cornwall held a reception at Clarence House inviting victims, high profile ambassadors and celebrity guests including Sir Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters and Alesha Dixon. At the event The Duchess urged society to challenge the ‘corrosive’ silence that surrounds domestic abuse today.
She said ‘Domestic abuse remains a hidden problem in our society. It is characterised by silence – silence from those who suffer, silence from those around them and silence from those who perpetrate abuse. ‘This silence is corrosive: It leaves women, children – and men – carrying the burden of shame, it prevents them from speaking out about their abuse and it prevents them from getting help. And at its worst, it can be fatal.’
Each year 2.1 million people in the UK suffer some form of domestic abuse – 1.4 million women, the equivalent of 8.5 per cent of the population, and 700,000 men. At the event I asked Sir Patrick Stewart what had inspired him to become a patron of a domestic abuse charity and he said it took him decades to talk about what he had suffered growing up witnessing his mother being abused by his father and he said that he felt ‘ashamed’ to talk about it and that is exactly what so many victims feel, shame. Although they are not responsible for the violence, or the behaviour of another human being they still feel ashamed and embarrassed. When Patrick was young, domestic abuse didn’t get the same response which it garners now and the same services were not available for victims and children. I believe passionately about prevention and education, we need to educate our young people on healthy relationships on consent and to learn to respect each other and we also need to ensure that we offer support to the whole family.
We have been fortunate to get funding from Comic Relief and Children in Need and have been delivering educational programmes in schools, colleges and youth services in BWD for the past 4 years and have reached thousands of young people in doing so, we have also been supporting young people who have witnessed or directly suffered abuse through a whole range of therapeutic programmes and 1:1 work. Young people witnessing abuse often try to intervene to protect the abused parent or try and protect themselves and in every home where abuse is happening they suffer and the effects are long lasting unless support is provided.
Julie Walters who is a patron of Women’s Aid told me that she is asked constantly to support good causes and when she was asked to support victims of abuse how could she refuse, she said it was unimaginable to her that women can live in abusive relationships and if she could support in some way she wanted to do it.
The Duchess in her speech expressed that victims of abuse are ‘some of the bravest women I have been privileged to meet’, adding how ‘Their silence was broken – but only after a tragedy.’ It is difficult to disagree with that statement, as is the idea that those who find themselves in these horrible situations should hopefully be known as ‘victors not victims’.
We all need to work together to make this statement come true and end the silence that surrounds domestic abuse, for that we need to create a healthy environment for victims to express what has happened to them and events like these ensure that the right steps are being taken for this to happen.
ISVA NEWS (Independent Sexual Violence Advocate)
In the US last week, a former Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman was sentenced to six months in jail because a longer sentence would have “a severe impact on him,” according to the judge in the case. At his sentencing hearing, his victim read the defendant Brock Turner a letter describing the impact the assault had on her. Anybody that has read the powerful and inspiring statement will have been affected by it. If you have not done so, please take this unique opportunity to enter into the mind of a victim of sexual assault to get some insight into why ongoing support is so important.
Nearer to home, I was privileged to extend ISVA support to just one of ten victims of childhood sexual abuse by Peter Yates and his son Shaun. On Thursday of last week, at Preston Crown Court, Yates was convicted of seven counts of rape, 22 counts of indecent assault, one count of buggery and four counts of indecency with a child.
He was handed eight 25 year sentences, 19 eight year sentences, a four year sentence and an 18 month sentence to run concurrently. Yates will serve 25 years and will only be released if deemed suitable by the parole board. His son Shaun Yates was convicted of raping a girl on two separate occasions.
Celebrating our volunteers
As its Volunteers week its apt to do a blog on volunteers & volunteering so 18 months ago we made a decision to recruit volunteers, and now looking back have wondered why we waited so long before we took this step. Volunteers need supervision and training but what they are able to contribute in return is invaluable. Marjorie Moore said “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy, you vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer you vote everyday about the kind of community you want to live in”. People volunteer for many reasons some because they need experience to apply for a job others because they want to make a difference; in both scenarios volunteers are giving a valuable resource to us ….. time.
18 months after we made the decision to recruit volunteers we have 15 volunteers based across all 3 of our sites working alongside staff to offer a range of activities and support. In our refuge accommodation volunteers are running cooking sessions with the residents supporting and developing the resident’s skills and encouraging them to think about nutrition and healthy eating as well as showing how cost effective it is to cook your own food.
We also have volunteers who help deliver the therapeutic programmes we run for women and children, at our main office, in the refuges and in the community. Volunteers also provide support at our weekly coffee morning and run our weekly peer support group.
They also provide emotional support to service users and we have got some fantastic peer mentors now supporting women in the refuge and the community. With the right support in place volunteers are a valuable asset and one that I am really glad we have invested in.
To celebrate the work they are doing we invited them all to our weekly coffee morning were they all received a handmade cupcake and flowers and off course lots of love and appreciation from our service users who were present.
Lives we have changed
The difference we have made is easy to see in the pictograph below, across all areas of the service we have helped and supported victims and their families. We have assisted over 15,000 people via our helpline and directly supported 1504 victims and helped them to start the journey to live their lives free from abuse. We have also supported professionals from statutory and voluntary agencies by training them to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and providing them with the skills to be able to respond to victims if they are the first point of contact.
The work we have done with young people is so important and ranges from raising awareness and understanding of domestic abuse in the secondary schools & colleges in the borough to Blackburn university centre. We have also worked with voluntary organisations who engage with young people to deliver workshops and programmes. In total we have reached over 8500 young people an achievement we are incredibly really proud of.
We have accommodated 65 women and 97 children in safe accommodation providing emotional support and an opportunity for people in crisis to heal and start the process of rebuilding their lives, 41 families have received intensive support in the community and are able to live independently and 290 people have completed a range of therapeutic programmes enabling them to become stronger and developing their confidence and self-esteem. Our voluntary perpetrator programme has been completed by 51 perpetrators supporting them to change their behaviour.
92% of people who have engaged with support have felt safer and that ultimately is what the service is about. Making a difference, changing lives and building safer communities safer.
Please click on the pictograph to enlarge the image.