Sexually Abused by Alcoholic, Can I Claim Compensation?

People under the influence of alcohol don’t only cause harm to themselves but those around them too. This includes strangers, colleagues, friends and even family members. Studies have shown that alcohol and domestic abuse often go hand in hand which includes sexual assault and violent behaviour. If you were sexually abused by an alcoholic no matter what the circumstances, you may be entitled to seek compensation for the physical and psychological harm the perpetrator caused you.

To find out more about how a solicitor could help you build a case against an assailant if you were sexually abused by an alcoholic, please read on.

What is the Definition of Sexual Abuse?

If you were forced to take part in any sort of sexual behaviour by another person, under UK law this is classed as ‘sexual abuse’ and the perpetrator would be known as a ‘sexual abuser’ whether they are under the influence of alcohol or not. Sexual abuse refers to any sort of behaviour directed by an adult towards another adult or child where the ‘victim’ has not given their consent. Should you have been under the age of consent which in the UK is 16, when you were subjected to this type of abuse, in law this is known as ‘child sexual abuse’.

Studies have shown the people most likely to be victims of sexual assault or rape know their assailants and that about half of all domestic abuse related cases involve instances of sexual violence. With this said, sexual assault also occurs outside of a family environment and that alcohol plays a key role in sexual assaults whether the crime was committed by someone known to the victim or not.

Are There Different Types of Sexual Abuse?

There are various types of sexual abuse which includes the following:

  • Non-consensual forced physical sexual behaviour – sexual assault and rape
  • Unwanted touching
  • Kissing
  • Fondling
  • Exposing genitalia
  • Exposing a child to pornography
  • Incest
  • Sexual harassment
  • Spousal sexual abuse – also known as a type of domestic violence

When an abuser uses their power and position of authority to force you to engage in any sort of unwanted sexual behaviour/act, this is sexual abuse whether your assailant was drunk or not. Examples being:

  • Adults abusing children
  • Sexual harassment at work
  • Abusers who hold positions of power which includes religious authorities

Statistics on Sexual Assault and Alcohol in the UK

As previously touched upon, research has established that there is a strong connection between crimes of violence and the misuse of alcohol. According to studies carried out by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), an estimated 20% of women have been the victim of some form of sexual assault since they turned sixteen years of age and 4% of men experienced a type of sexual assault. This represents 3.4 million women and 631,000 men in the UK. The CSEW also estimated that 510,000 women and 138,000 men aged 16 to 59 were the victims of a sexual assault during the year ending March 2017 CSEW. It is worth noting that according to the CSEW, 5 in 6 victims of a sexual assault did not report the incidents to the police. With this said, a total of 121,187 sexual offences were reported to the police in England and Wales for the same year. This represents an increase of 14% compared with the previous year being the highest record since the National Crime Recording Standard was established in 2002.

How Does the CICA Deal With Cases of Sexual Assault?

For an application to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority to be accepted, you must be able to show that you were injured by an assailant when they were drunk and sexually abused you whether this is physically or psychologically. This includes suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or having developed acute stress reactions which many victims of a sexual assault will suffer from. Behavioural problems and experiencing the following symptoms can negatively impact your life:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • Sleeplessness
  • An avoidance of any reminders of the assault
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks

Many people who suffer a sexual assault by a drunken person may attempt to self-medicate in an attempt to ‘blot out’ the memory and symptoms they are experiencing following an attack and some younger victims may self-harm, all of which the CICA would take into consideration when compensating people who have been the victims of a sexual assault or sexual abuse.

Because this type of claim is sensitive and because there are strict rules that apply to claims made through the CICA scheme, discussing a case with a solicitor is always advisable. There is also a strict 2 year time limit that must be respected when applying to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. However, if you were sexually abused by an alcoholic when you were a minor, the time limit would only begin to ‘run’ when you turn eighteen years of age. In short, you would have up until you are twenty years old to make an application for sexual abuse compensation claim through the CICA scheme.

However, because these claims can be complex and rules must be respected, it is best to seek legal representation from a solicitor as early as you feel comfortable doing so the necessary evidence and other relevant documents like medical and police reports can be gathered. If an application is submitted after the deadline has passed, it would not be accepted by the CICA unless there are ‘exceptional’ circumstances as to why an application was not submitted to the authority within the time limit.

These ‘exceptions’ would include the following:

  • Historic sexual abuse

Many children who were subjected to sexual abuse by an alcoholic or other person, often suffer mental health issues and many become dependent on drugs and alcohol. Often it is because of this that a claim for sexual abuse compensation through the CICA scheme never gets filed on time. Many victims of child sexual abuse do not realise they have been harmed psychologically either until they reach maturity which typically occurs when a medical professional diagnoses them as suffering from some form of mental issue which is linked to the sexual abuse in childhood. It is usually at this point in time that a claim would be filed through the CICA scheme.

How Does the CICA Consider Consent?

The authority takes any sort of sexual assault on a victim very seriously and would carefully consider all aspects and circumstances surrounding this type of traumatic assault on an innocent person. Consent is, therefore, something the authority is obliged to factor into all claims relating to sexual abuse. Questions such as the following would be taken into consideration:

  • Did a victim give consent to the sexual abuse to a degree in any way which was given freely and voluntarily?

However, things become more complex in childhood sexual abuse cases where ‘grooming’ by an adult is involved. The CICA will take all aspects of such cases into consideration. An experienced solicitor, should you wish to claim compensation through the scheme if you were the victim of sexual abuse by an alcoholic when you were minor, would ensure your application for compensation through the scheme is correctly submitted and that all the required criteria is met.

What Level of Compensation Would I Get Through the CICA Scheme?

The CICA scheme operates a tariff system to compensate blameless victims of violent crimes which awards injured people for both physical and psychological injuries they sustained. In the tariff system there is a specific category for victims of sexual offences and the more serious the assault, the higher level of compensation would be awarded through the CICA scheme. Other factors that would be taken into account when determining the level of compensation you may be awarded includes the following:

  • A higher level of compensation would be awarded if there is found that more than one assault took place
  • A higher level would be awarded if the sexual attack was severe

It is worth noting that there is what is referred to as an ‘inbuilt’ amount that is included in CICA compensation, to reflect the fact that a victim of sexual abuse sustained some level of psychiatric damage as a result of the attack.

Should your claim for compensation be accepted by the authority, they could award you £11,000 for non- consensual penile penetration if a single incident took place and the same amount would be awarded for penile penetration of mouth or anus. If you were sexually abused by an alcoholic and the assault did not involve penile penetration, you could be awarded anything between £1500 – £8200 under the CICA tariff.

Should your case involve extremely serious sexual abuse, the level of compensation awarded would be substantially more and could be as much as £22000 where mental anguish and damage can be proved. In such cases, a report from a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist would be required. It would not be enough to have a report from a therapist or your GP for a claim to be accepted by the authority.

Would My DWP Benefits be Affected If I Am Awarded Compensation?

If you are worried that your department of work and pension benefits would be affected by any compensation you are awarded in a successful sexual abuse claim, the answer is that all means tested benefits (DWP) would be impacted should you be awarded a lump sum in compensation that is in excess of £6,000. If you are awarded over £16,000 you may lose all your benefits. However, you would be able to avoid losing any of the benefits you receive by taking out what is known as a personal injury trust.

A solicitor would offer essential legal advice on how to set this up prior to accepting a settlement.

How does the CICA Claims Process Work for Sexual Abuse Cases?

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority was established in 1964 so that blameless victims of violence could seek compensation for the harm and damage they suffered. Because the process is complex and there are strict rules that must be respected, it is far wiser to seek the help of a solicitor who has the necessary legal experience required to handle claims made through the CICA scheme.

Gathering all the evidence required to prove a case can be time consuming as it entails getting the following:

  • The police incident report/number
  • The medical report provided by a GP or other medical professional

The time limit to filing a sexual abuse claim through the CICA scheme is 2 years from the date the assault was reported to the police and you must have been seen to have fully cooperated with the police during their investigations. Another rule is that you must not have any unspent convictions which a solicitor would be able to check prior to an application for sexual abuse compensation through the CICA scheme being filed. Should you have any unspent convictions and this includes a drink driving offence, the authority would turn down your application.

What Evidence is Required When Filing a Sexual Abuse Claim Through the CICA?

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority would request all evidence the police have on record in order to substantiate any allegations made against your assailant. Other evidence that would be required when filing a sexual abuse claim through the Scheme would include the following:

  • Medical records whether from a GP or hospital if you are claiming compensation for psychological harm caused by the sexual abuse by an alcoholic you were subjected to

However, it is worth noting that you may still be awarded compensation if no medical examination was carried out. A personal injury solicitor would provide essential legal advice on how best to proceed should this be the case.

You may also be entitled to claim loss of earnings should you not have been able to work due to the harm you were caused having been sexually abused by an alcoholic. However you would need to provide the following evidence for your claim to be accepted by the CICA:

  • You must be able to prove that you cannot carry out paid work
  • You would need to show that you were in paid work prior to being the victim of sexual abuse but can no longer work
  • Evidence from an employer that you were absent from work
  • Evidence from HMRC that you incurred loss of earnings
  • You would not be able to claim loss of earnings for the first 28 weeks of any loss of earnings under the scheme
  • Loss of earnings is capped at the current level of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which would be valid at the time of compensation awarded

How Would I Know if My Sexual Abuse Claim Would be Accepted by the CICA?

This would depend on the whether your case met the necessary CICA criteria and whether or not there was sufficient evidence to support your case against an assailant. This would mean having enough proof to determine that on the ‘balance of probability’ a crime was committed against you. Should your case have already been to court, this would provide sufficient evidence of ‘probability’ but it is worth noting that an assailant would not have to be ‘tried’ for you to be compensated through the Scheme providing there is strong enough proof that a crime against you had been committed by an assailant.

Why Would the CICA Refuse My Sexual Assault Claim?

Your claim for sexual abuse through the CICA may be refused for several reasons but the four main ones are as follows:

  • You did not have enough evidence to prove that a crime was committed – when it comes to sexual assault and abuse, the question of ‘consent’ can be an issue
  • You have unspent criminal convictions – in which case, the authority would turn down your application for sexual abuse compensation through the CICA Scheme
  • You failed to fully cooperate with the police during their investigations into the sexual abuse you were subjected to
  • You submitted your application to the CICA after the 2 year deadline

Is It Better to Use a No Win No Fee Solicitor When Making a Sexual Abuse Claim Through the CICA?

You are not obliged to use a solicitor when making a sexual abuse claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme but because there are strict criteria that must be met, it is better to seek legal advice prior to submitting an application for compensation to the authority, although it is up to you whether or not you seek legal representation.

With this said sexual abuse and sexual assault cases tend to be complex and it is important to get things right from the outset to avoid a claim being turned down. By contacting a solicitor, you know your case would be professionally handled and that the necessary evidence would be gathered prior to submitting a sexual abuse compensation claim through the CICA. Having legal representation also means the strict time limit of two years would be respected to avoid your case being time barred. A solicitor would also be sympathetic to your circumstances and work with you at your own pace. Should it be found that you have a strong case, a solicitor would also offer to represent you on a No Win No Fee basis, taking all the worry of paying for their services off the table.

Links to Helpful Websites

If you would like more information about how the police deal with sexual abuse reports, please follow the link provided below:

More information on how the authorities handle sexual abuse cases

For more information regarding the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority and how they deal with applications to the CICA Scheme, please click on the link below:

More information regarding the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

If you were sexually abused as a minor and would like more information on the time limit associated with historical sexual abuse, please follow the link provided below:

More information about historical sexual abuse time limits