During the late 1990s and the early 2000's victims broke their silence and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia were made, implicating a number of well known and trusted religious and non-religious institutions.
These allegations were notoriously difficult to prove and prosecute as the offenders were often moved from place to place whilst being protected by organisations instead of their abuse and the crime being reported.
Victims were understandably skeptical in coming forward, especially when facing the burden of re-living the assaults and the challenges associated with facing the hierarchy of these powerful institutions, with little more than a historical recollection.
On 12 November 2012 the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that she would recommend to the Governor General that a Royal Commission be appointed to enquire into institutional responses to child abuse.
This move was prompted by revelations of adults' inability to stop further acts of child abuse and the obvious historical abuse of children in educational institutions by religious groups, sporting organisations, state institutions and youth organisations. The commission was also supported by similar organisations in the United States and several other European countries.
On 15 December 2017 the Royal Commission presented its final report to the Governor General detailing the accumulation of a five year enquiry into child sexual abuse.
The findings from this commission have lead to greater investigatory powers available to the police, and have resulted in a significant amount of successful prosecutions. Due to the new powers, more evidence has become available, which has given the abuser little option but to admit their crimes and plead guilty. This new approach does not only bring offenders to justice but also increases child protections and delivers better outcomes for survivors.
To supplement the new investigatory powers, reforms have come into place to make it easier to prosecute persistent child sexual abuse offenders with the existing offence of grooming children being broaden to cover situations where a victim is provided with money or material benefit. In addition to the widening of the legislative definitions, the maximum penalty for grooming offences has been increased from 25 years to life imprisonment.
Sexual abuse has ongoing and devastating effects on the victims who have to survive through significant abuse whilst at a very vulnerable stage. It also leads to survivors with trust issues particularly when the state institutions have let them down for not only their failure to protect them but also their ongoing protection of the abusers.
While no amount of compensation can right the wrongs caused to these people, the Government has now increased the amount that a victim can claim in addition to the New South Wales Government recognition payments.
Victim of such abuse, you can potentially also receive compensation for non-economic loss such as pain and suffering, past and future lost of income and past and future medical care costs.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.