On 27 November criminal injuries compensation is to be cut, despite overwhelming all-Party opposition in Parliament in September. In the same week as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25 November), victims of rape and other violence are to be deprived of money which can help with security and recovery.
The government Consultation paper ‘Getting it right for victims CPS/2012’ argues that cuts will not affect victims of rape or other serious violent crimes. This is a lie. (See our response below on this webpage.)
They are reducing the awards to spouses and children of murder victims – and two women a week are murdered by their partner or ex-partner.
They are cutting all compensation for minor injuries and reducing other payments – affecting victims of sexual assault and child abuse.
Compensation is vitally important. The traumatic effects can plague victims for life. The money can pay for additional security to make victims safer, healthcare, therapy or whatever else they may need. It is often the only official acknowledgement of the crime, especially if the attacker has not been charged or convicted – the experience of the overwhelming majority of victims of rape and sexual assault. Only 6.5% of rapes reach conviction.
A rape survivor we helped win an award commented this week: “It is heartening to know that I have had some ‘recognition’ and I do think of others who have not been believed, been imprisoned, etc. I am sorry that the Scheme is being cut. I want to thank you for your support . . .”
Violent sex crimes are committed by individuals, mostly men against women and children. But the State bears responsibility for making us vulnerable to rape by not prosecuting our attackers, allowing them to attack again, and by cutting services and resources that help to make us safer.
To cut compensation after public outcries over the authorities inaction and even complicity with the crimes committed by Jimmy Savile in Rochdale and in North Wales children’s homes and elsewhere, gives the lie to government concern expressed over recent weeks about rape of women and children.
The compensation changes magnify other devastating cuts which bolster men’s power to rape – beginning with welfare cuts to mothers and people with disabilities, housing benefit cuts, and other changes that will result in benefits being paid to the ‘head of the household’, usually a man, rather than to the woman. Many refuges, with bed spaces already hard to find, say they will be forced to close. Cuts to legal aid and advocacy services deny women legal protection. The government is making women and children more dependent on men, and therefore more vulnerable to rape and domestic violence. All our escape routes are being cut. Either the government doesn’t care what happens to us or they want women and children to be sexually available. As one of Savile’s victims said: “That’s what we were for.”
Other cuts to the Scheme that will affect survivors of sexual violence include:
- Where currently the CICA has discretion in respect of victims who didn’t report the crime or were considered not to have co-operated with the police, this will now be fatal to a claim. Most victims stand to lose out.
Only 11% of rape survivors report. It is well-known that sexual violence is traumatic and that often victims find it difficult to report straight away or at all. The process of fighting for justice is so harrowing that many describe it as a second rape. Judges in rape trials now give directions to the jury not to assume a late report is a false one.
Many victims drop out – in the Metropolitan area 40% withdraw almost immediately, even before giving a video statement. This may be because they are treated badly, or are afraid of retaliation and offered no protection. They are then accused of failing to co-operate with the police. Increasing numbers of women are bullied by police into withdrawing, some are even prosecuted and imprisoned.
- Refusal or reductions of compensation for victims with unrelated criminal convictions will now be mandatory, all discretion is removed. Those most likely to be discriminated against will be victimised once more.
Many survivors, deeply traumatised, are criminalised – many of the children who had their lives wrecked by rape and sexual assault found themselves arrested and even imprisoned. They are now to be further dismissed as not entitled. Unrelated convictions, even for smoking cannabis or sex work, are often a pretext to refuse awards. Over the years we have had to challenge deeply prejudiced judgements by CICA assessors. We have won appeals for sex workers and drug users. In one appeal hearing, a sex worker was told by a judge that the effects of rape were different for prostitutes, and her award was reduced by a third because of her occupation. Now she stands to be denied altogether, as do all sex workers. Yet they are often targeted for rape and other violence.
- Injuries classed in Tariff band 1-5 will get nothing, and bands 5-12 are down valued.
This will affect any applicant who suffered sexual assault that didn’t include rape, even where the violence went on for more than three years and was carried out by more than one attacker.
- Time limits for review and appeal are being cut from 90 days to 56 days.
This will disproportionately affect rape victims who are traumatised and incapacitated, and anyone with fewer resources and skills to find help.
- Awards will be restricted to people ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK. Non residents will be denied.
But some of those classified as non-residents are particularly vulnerable to violence. Fear of deportation already deters most victims from reporting violence. Thousands of women and children seeking asylum have to wait years while their asylum claims are settled – the proposals will make them even more vulnerable. This is a green light to racists and rapists.
- The costs of the Scheme and of victim support services are being shifted onto people in prison. This is exploitative and undermines wages. We are totally opposed to it.
Ms A was raped after a date with a man. She was refused compensation because according to police records she had reported rape before and was therefore not to be believed. The prosecution was closed. We pressed the police and CPS, who were prosecuting her rapist on other charges, and her charge was reinstated. The man was convicted as a serial rapist and sentenced to 16 years. We found her a solicitor who helped press the CICA to reopen her appeal, and she won £11,000.
Ms B, a pensioner, was raped by a family friend. The prosecution of her attacker was prematurely closed. We called for a meeting with police and CPS, where they admitted they had misunderstood the evidence and misinterpreted her texts with the attacker as sexual flirtation where there was none. We conveyed this to the CICA, which immediately settled her claim. She won £11,000.
Ms C is a social worker raped by a stranger on her doorstep. The police questioned whether she imagined the attack as she was traumatised by an unrelated fatality at work, and unable to identify the attacker who was masked. We pressed the police to reactivate the investigation. She won £11,000.
Ms D suffered four rapes by her partner. Before she contacted us she had questioned an award of £11,000.not knowing that women raped more than once within a relationship are only entitled to one tariff payout. Instead of explaining this, the CICA vindictively withdrew the offer. We found her a local solicitor and encouraged her to fight on. After putting her through a stressful appeal hearing, her original award was reinstated.
Ms E suffered repeated anal rape by her husband. He was acquitted at trial. She was so traumatised by giving evidence at trial that she didn’t apply for compensation within the two year deadline. She was refused compensation as a result. In addition, the CICA had the wrong evidence. We helped her gather the correct police and medical evidence, and appeal. She won £11,000.
Ms F was drugged, raped, tied up and otherwise tortured for 17 hours by an acquaintance. Her attacker was only prosecuted for assault, and he was released after just a few months. She was not consulted about the plea bargain, and was only informed after the trial. She was refused compensation. We helped her appeal and she won £11,000.
Mr G was raped as a child. His rapist was convicted last year of over 20 sexual assaults on teenage boys in the 1980s and 90s. Yet Mr R and all the others victims have been refused compensation because they did not apply at the time. This refusal disregards both his youth and the dismissive response he got from the police in 1991.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was introduced in 1964 to provide financial assistance to victims of crime in the UK. With the conviction rate for rape at a shameful 6.5%, criminal injuries compensation is often the only official acknowledgement many victims get. IF an applicant is found to be eligible, awards are made according to a table of fixed tariffs for specific injuries. Rape is classed as an injury valued at £11,000, which is comparable to the loss of a kidney.
The Scheme already denies rape victims thousands of pounds every year, particularly to those who have unrelated criminal convictions and/or are deemed not to be of “good character”. Parliamentary Questions on 22 November 2011 revealed that, in the year 2010-11, only 854 women were awarded compensation for rape and 527 for sexual assault. Reasons why rape awards were reduced included: 71 for convictions or “character”; 3 for delay in reporting to the police; 2 for not supporting a prosecution. The Secretary of State did not supply figures on how many rape applicants were refused outright. 21 rape applicants won on appeal.
Contact Women Against Rape at 020 7482 2496 or email@example.com