A Rotherham MP is seeking a change in the law over compensation for child sex abuse victims.
Sarah Champion has written to the Secretary of State for Justice calling for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to stop ruling out payments on the grounds that children were somehow complicit in the abuse.
Since the CICA scheme was launched in November 2012 nearly 700 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have been refused payments ranging between £1,000 and £44,000, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.
While the law states it is a crime to have sexual activity with anyone under the age of 16, it is claimed that is not reflected in compensation decisions and that payment rules are being interpreted to suggest children can consent to their abuse.
A coalition, including Rape Crisis, Barnardo’s, Victim Support, Liberty, and the National Working Group, is calling for the rules to be changed so that no child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse is denied compensation because they complied with their abuse through fear, lack of understanding, or being brainwashed into believing their abuser loved them.
MP Sarah Champion said: "When I first learned that child victims were being denied compensation because the CICA felt they were complicit in their own abuse, I simply couldn’t believe it.
"The law is very clear that a child under 16 years cannot give consent, yet the CICA are ignoring this. When I started researching this injustice it I found had affected some of my constituents.
"I have written to the Secretary of State for Justice demanding they make sure the CICA change their policy so that children are not considered to be complicit in their own abuse and punished because of it.
"Children are also being denied compensation as they were forced into criminal acts a part of the grooming process. It is bad enough that a child has to endure a crime, but for them then to be punished by the State because of it is sickening.
"I have never met a survivor who even considered the monetary value of compensation. For them, it is recognition that they suffered a crime and this is a way for the State to try and make amends”
A child rape victim supported by Rape Crisis in Oxfordshire said she felt 'blamed and shamed' when she received a letter from the CICA denying her compensation.
The letter said: "Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that you did not in fact consent to a sexual relationship with the alleged offender."
Dawn Thomas, co-chairman of Rape Crisis England and Wales, said: "It's not only bizarre but also inappropriate and harmful that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority applies a different definition of consent from the law and, as a result, routinely tell victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation that they consented to the sexual violence perpetrated against them.
“Through our frontline experience, we know this is by no means the only way in which survivors and victims of these devastating crimes are disadvantaged and even re-traumatised by the current scheme, which is meant to compensate them in some small way for the significant impacts of sexual violence on their lives.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said: “For children to be denied compensation on the grounds that they ‘consented’ to the abuse they have suffered is nothing short of scandalous."
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is a government funded and designed to compensate blameless victims of violent crime in Great Britain.
It is run by an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice.
Freedom of Information figures show that since the scheme started in 2012, 693 child victims of sexual abuse have been refused compensation.
It is not stated how many were denied because they ‘consented’ to sex, but that they were denied because they were ‘not a direct victim of a crime of violence’.