I’m guessing a lot of people won’t have heard of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). I certainly hadn’t until a few years ago, when I attempted to prosecute my brother for the abuse he subjected me to as a child. The police were unable to take the case to court, but they urged me to apply to this fund for compensation, as my brother had been convicted of some offences at the time.
The scheme exists to compensate people who have been physically or mentally injured because they were the victim of a violent crime. You need to have actually managed to get your abuser convicted to apply, which means that it isn’t applicable to a lot of people. And even with that conviction, many applications are rejected. There’s been a lot of controversy around that, as victims are often declined on the grounds of consent; i.e. claims assessors decide that a child consented to being abused and therefore they don’t deserve compensation.
It’s natural for me to assume that I will have to fight to get anything from anyone when it comes to this stuff. After reading the news reports and taking legal advice, I’d assumed I would be declined, or offered the minimum payout, and that I’d then need to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process.
This means it was a huge surprise when I finally received a letter from CICA at the weekend, and learned that they have decided to award me £11,000 compensation for what my brother did. I was utterly shocked. I burst into tears as I read the first paragraph. The sense of relief was huge. The feeling of being heard and taken seriously was so important to me.
As a child, the adults in my life pretty much ignored what had happened. And the authorities hardly intervened. My brother admitted to his crimes (in a police interview of just 9 minutes), yet was only given a caution by the police. Social services didn’t see a need to remove him or me from our home, and just offered a few counselling sessions for both of us – plus a horrific ‘family mediation’ session that literally retraumatised me.
So it means a great deal having some official body recognise what I’ve been through. Sure, the money doesn’t make up for what he did. It doesn’t even replace what I’ve spent on therapy in the past three years. But it is a helpful cushion that will take some of the pressure off when we move onto our boat in a few weeks. What’s also important to me is the way the award was explained.
The claims assessor wrote that she’d reviewed the evidence, including my witness testimony, and instead of awarding the lower amount for a ‘pattern of abuse’, she decided to award me 100% of the possible payout in the category for rape. This is the first time I have ever had official recognition for the fact that he raped me. I’ve waited a lot of years for that.
What also feels gratifying is knowing that something came out of the ordeal of testifying to the police. I was totally devastated when the CPS reviewed my case and I found out it wouldn’t go to court. It felt like I’d gone through the awful pain of making my video statement for absolutely nothing. But that statement turned out to be an important part of the decision CICA made, and it makes me feel better to know that it wasn’t just an agonising waste of time and energy.
Getting that letter was such an important moment for me, I actually celebrated. This shocked my wife, who usually has to force me to celebrate anything and even then I talk it down to having a bit of cake in front of the telly. But this time, I called up some friends who I knew would understand what the news meant to me, and we went out for a meal together. I had a really lovely evening and it felt good to celebrate with them.
While the judicial system in the UK is still appalling for victims of sexual offences, this process has led me to feel like for the first time in my life I have achieved the smallest bit of justice. I will never have the justice I’d like. I’m not sure there is anything in the world that would feel like real justice, but this is probably the best I am going to get. And it is definitely better than nothing.
If you have been through the courts and got your abuser convicted, I’d really urge you to apply to the scheme. You can still apply if the offence is historic. To start the process, you fill out a very basic form online. It actually doesn’t require an awful lot of input. I only had to send medical records (which were easy to request from my GP) and supply details of my doctors and crime reference numbers. The hard part is then waiting for them to process all of that, which can take years.
I’d be happy to answer any questions if you’re not sure about starting a claim. Just leave me a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org.