Compensation Claims for the Sexual Abuse of Children

If you – as a parent or guardian – intend making child sexual abuse compensation claims on behalf of your son or daughter, it is important that you understand the potential consequences of legal action – not only for your child, but for you as well.

In addition to the difficult physical procedures you will have to go through, there are also the emotional challenges you and your child will encounter – with no guarantee that your claim for the sexual abuse of a child is going to be successful.

Claiming compensation for a child being sexually abused is one of the most difficult decisions a parent will ever have to make on behalf of their child, and consequently we have compiled this article with the intention of clarifying what is involved when making child sexual abuse compensation claims.

This article is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to making compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children, as no article could cover all the situations in which the sexual assault of a child could take place. Ideally, after reading this article, you will take advantage of our 24-hour helpline to discuss the specific nature of your child´s sexual assault with one of our expert team.

Explaining Child Sexual Abuse Compensation Claims

Child sexual abuse compensation claims are civil actions which allow you to recover compensation on behalf of your child after they have been the victim of a sexual assault. Most frequently the success of compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children relies on three factors:

  • That the perpetrator has been found guilty of sexual assault
  • That your son or daughter has suffered a quantifiable injury
  • That there are assets against which to claim for the sexual abuse of a child

Each of these factors is elaborated upon below and, in order to remove any confusion about the content of this article, the procedures described for claiming compensation for a child being sexually abused apply to children who are currently under the age of seventeen.

If you were sexually assaulted as a child when you were younger, and you would like information about making a claim for the sexual abuse of a child who is now an adult, please refer to our article “It Takes a Courageous Person to Make Compensation Claims for Sexual Abuse” or speak directly with a solicitor on our claims helpline.

The First Stages of a Claim for the Sexual Abuse of a Child

Compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children involve investigations by the Gardaí, possible criminal prosecutions and appearances in court by both you and your child. The Child and Family Agency Tusla will be involved as well, at least during the first stages of a claim for the sexual abuse of a child.

Under the “Children First National Guidance” of 2011, responsible adults have a legal obligation to report disclosures of sexual abuse to the Child and Family Agency. If your child confides in you first, it is recommended that you also inform the Agency.

This is because if your child confides in a responsible adult later, and the responsible adult fulfils their obligation of informing Tulsa, questions may be asked why you did not initiate legal action at the time you first knew of the abuse.

After the Child and Family Agency have been informed, it is usual that a report is made to the Gardaí. The Gardaí will conduct an investigation into your child´s allegations and compile a “Book of Evidence” to give to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Criminal Proceedings and Prosecution Process

The Director of Public Prosecutions will use her discretion to decide whether or not to prosecute, and will take your feelings into account when making her decision. If the decision is made to proceed with a prosecution, it is likely that you and your child will be required to appear in court – even if the person accused of abusing your child has admitted the charges brought against them.

Often the prosecution process is the hardest part of child sexual abuse compensation claims, as the person who assaulted your child is likely to be known to you. Everybody – Tusla, the Gardaí, Director of Public prosecutions and us – acknowledge that you or your child may be apprehensive of giving evidence during the court proceeding and may wish to withdraw your child´s allegations.

However, you should consider that by reporting a perpetrator of sexual assault to the Gardaí, you may be saving others from suffering the same physical and emotional traumas that your son or daughter has experienced. Support is available before, during and after the criminal proceedings, and you can get advice on each step of the prosecution process via our claims helpline.

Quantifying an Injury to Your Child

When your child first confides in you that they have been sexually abused, your first concern is likely to be whether they have been physically injured. Frequently, sexual assault to a child does not involve penetration, but other forms of injury may be identified when your son or daughter talks with a counsellor.

A review of your child´s medical history may reveal illnesses which they have suffered in the past for no apparent reason and a child psychologist may be assigned – with your permission – to expose the level of emotional trauma your child has suffered. All of their physical and psychological injuries will be chronicled and, where they can be attributed to a sexual assault, included in a claim for the sexual abuse of a child.

Consenting to have your child psychologically evaluated is not something that you have to agree to straight away. The investigation by the Gardaí into your child´s allegations may take several years to complete, and sometimes it is your child´s best interests to allow any behavioural difficulties or other symptoms of sexual abuse to manifest so that an accurate picture of their emotional state can be compiled.

However, we strongly recommend that you, your child and all the other members of your family seek professional counselling as a priority. Your child will not have to speak with the Gardaí or any medical professional until they are ready to do so. It is important to remember that you retain the right to withdraw your claim for compensation for a child being sexually abused at any stage of the process.

Claiming Compensation for a Child Being Sexually Abused

It is not always necessary for a criminal conviction in order you for to claim compensation for a child being sexually abused, but this is the exception rather than the rule. If a conviction is forthcoming, child sexual abuse compensation claims are almost certain to be successful – providing that the perpetrator has sufficient assets against which to make a claim.

There is no specific financial profile for sexual abusers and, as your child´s abuser is likely to be in prison, there may only be limited assets available to pay compensation for a child being sexually abused. Your solicitor will investigate what assets and insurance policies are held by the perpetrator in order to determine whether a claim for the sexual abuse of a child is viable.

If so, your solicitor will seek to have you appointed as your child´s “next friend” to represent them in a claim for compensation for a child being sexually abused. The case will be heard in court and an award of compensation will be approved by a judge – which will then be held in trust until your child is eighteen years of age. You will be able to access the compensation fund to pay for therapy and counselling costs for both you and your child.

If there are only limited assets against which to make child sexual abuse compensation claims, other channels exist to claim compensation for a child being sexually abused – such as the Department of Justice and Equality´s criminal injuries compensation scheme which is administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal.

Time Limits to Make Compensation Claims for the Sexual Abuse of Children

In Ireland, the time limits to make compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children does not start until a child reaches adulthood – i.e. becomes eighteen years of age. Thereafter, he or she has six years to make a claim for the sexual abuse of a child if one has not already been made on their behalf.

Irish courts have the discretion to extend the time limits for child sexual abuse compensation claims if necessary; and, in recent years, many compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children have been successfully heard long after the six year “Statute of Limitations” for compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children.

It should be noted however that compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children made to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal should be made within three months of a criminal conviction. These time limits will only be extended in exceptional circumstances – if, for example, psychiatric evaluations are still ongoing to establish the extent of your child´s emotional trauma and the impact that the sexual assault will have on them for the rest of their lives.

Speak with us about Child Sexual Abuse Compensation Claims

Only people who themselves have been abused as a child will appreciate how brave a victim of sexual abuse needs to be in order to make child sexual abuse compensation claims – even with the support of a parent – and we believe that we have assembled the right team of experts to support parents and their children through the process of making compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children.

If you would like to talk with one of our experts to get further information about child sexual abuse compensation claims, you are invited to call our claims helpline at any time and speak with one of our team who understand the delicate nature of making a claim for the sexual abuse of a child.

Naturally, all calls to our claims helpline are totally confidential, and there is no obligation on you to proceed with a claim for the sexual abuse of a child once you have spoken with us. Our intention is not to encourage compensation claims for the sexual abuse of children, but to guide you through the process of claiming compensation for a child being sexually abused so that you and your family can get the help you need to overcome this unfortunate incident and move on with your lives.