On 14 October, IICSA published a summary of victims and survivors’ views on redress.
The Victims and Survivors Forum (the Forum) is open to all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. It was set up to facilitate IICSA’s engagement with victims and survivors, making it easier to ask questions, offer suggestions, and for IICSA to gather the views of victims and survivors.
A series of workshops were planned for March 2020 to discuss the subject of redress, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only one physical workshop went ahead in Manchester and the remaining engagement took the form of an online questionnaire that members of the Forum could complete. It is worth noting that the summary published by IICSA is based on the replies of 22 people who attended in person at the Manchester event and 127 people who completed the online questionnaire.
The questionnaire was in two sections, one section dealt with statistical information and the other section asked about their personal experiences of seeking redress, which types of redress would be most important to them and how they would like the process of seeking redress to be handled.
Those who took place in the engagement on redress reported as follows:
- 52.1% had sought redress for the abuse that they had suffered;
- Of those who had sought redress the greatest numbers had sought redress through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority;
- 45.5% of those who had received redress previously had been redressed by way of financial compensation only, 20.5% of those surveyed had received an apology or an acknowledgement;
- 52.7 % of those who had sought redress described the overall process as negative, 21.6% found it mostly negative;
- Forum members told IICSA that there was a significant emotional impact to seeking redress describing the process as retraumatising and causing them further harm;
- For some, their experience had been that seeking redress had been a protracted and complex process. This is at odds with the whole underlying concept of redress schemes, which are supposed to be a simple and speedy alternative to complex and often lengthy civil litigation. One Forum member stated that “The whole experience which has lasted years has been a time of hyper-vigilance and anxiety on an almost daily basis.”
- Of the 47.9% who had not previously sought redress this was mostly because they were unaware of the concept of redress and for others it was the fear of having to disclose details of the abuse they had suffered;
- A majority of Forum members said that an apology was the most important aspect of redress, one Forum member noted that “So many people never apologise or say these words, ‘I am so sorry this happened to you.’ An apology was very meaningful to me, as it acknowledged the impact of abuse on me…”
- In addition to apologies, many Forum members noted the importance of an acknowledgement of the abuse they had suffered and the impact that such abuse can have on a person;
- Most people said that any financial redress that they received would be used to access support services which are becoming increasingly difficult to access if not privately funded;
- Appropriate support services were also highlighted as an essential part of any redress package;
- Forum members are also interested in the concept of “explanations of action” as part of any redress package. Explanations of action require institutions to explain what they have done and are doing to prevent sexual abuse of children in the future;
- A common theme that emerged from the engagement was that applications for redress would have to be dealt with sensitively, applicants would have to be supported throughout and beyond the process and that staff should be specifically trained in child sexual abuse and the impact of trauma. The majority of the victims and survivors were of the view that any redress scheme should be run and managed by an independent body;
- The Forum members were of the view that a redress scheme should be funded by the government, the institution itself and insurers;
- The majority of victims and survivors were of the view that any redress scheme should provide for fact finding, this means that any proposed redress scheme would seek to establish whether an applicant was sexually abused or not and they were also supportive of the stand of proof for fact finding being on the balance of probabilities.
The information Forum members have provided will inform IICSA’s Final Report.