[eliteaccordion][elitetoggle title="What defines abuse?"]
The term ‘abuse’ applies to mistreatment, including physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment of a child, by a person who is in a position of power over the child. It is a betrayal of the trust placed in that person that makes this conduct more than simple assault.
The Royal Commission has revealed many cases of how this trust can be broken by persons who are placed in a position of trust over children in organisations. Institutional Abuse covers all kinds of institutions, organisations and situations, including:
- Public schools;
- Private schools;
- Churches (Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Presbyterian, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Assemblies of God, Hillsong), mosques and temples;
- Religious organisations – local groups attached to churches, independent small religious groups, or larger organisations like the Salvation Army, the YMCA or YWCA;
- Children’s care facilities, run by governments or charities; and
- Situations involving people in positions of trust, who have breached that trust – teachers, doctors, sports coaches, team leaders, other responsible adults.
Child sexual abuse can destroy not only the child or young person, but also the adult they become. The affects are not limited to the survivor, it extends to the survivors’ family and friends. This damage is not always something that the survivor or people close to the survivor will be able to identify, simply because it is insidious and simply looks like growing up or puberty. It is all too common that survivors may have never made the connection between the child sexual abuse they suffered and the difficulties they experience in their adult lives.
There is now significant research which establishes how extensive the physical and psychological damage can be from child abuse. The damage is severe and long-lasting and people can be affected by these injuries for the rest of their lives. The research also shows the very sad truth that survivors of child sexual abuse do not disclose what happened to them until many, many years after they were abused. Thankfully though, we live in a brave new world where we now have the knowledge to better understand how traumatizing child sexual abuse is, and how this results in victims feeling unable to disclose what happened to them. This is largely due to the Royal Commission into Institutional abuse and the focus in medical and psychological research on child sexual abuse.
[eliteaccordion][elitetoggle title="What you can do"]
According to the Royal Commission, ‘justice’ in the civil process has to focus on “the provision of redress to address or alleviate the impact on survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.”
While nothing is able to change the past, financial compensation and redress can provide the means to allow survivors and their families to have a better future.
There are numerous options which survivors of abuse can chose to pursue ‘justice’:
- Victims Compensation is a state based compensation scheme for victims of crime, including sexual abuse. This compensation can include a lump sum recognition payment and counseling.
- Direct compensation is offered by some institutions, where the abuse occurred at the institution. This compensation is entirely controlled by the institution, although most institutions use the Royal Commission recommendations as a ‘guide’.
- The Royal Commission’s recommended Redress scheme has been approved, in some ways, by the NSW government. The scheme provides both lump sum compensation and treatment for the survivor and is expected to be implemented by the end of 2017.
- A civil claim can be filed in court against Institutions and possibly the perpetrator under Negligence. This is essentially suing them for the damages suffered as a result of the abuse.
We strongly recommend obtaining legal advice regarding your options to ensure that you make an informed decision about seeking redress which is based on what you want and what you need. Survivors have earned the right to make their own decisions about their future.
[eliteaccordion][elitetoggle title="What is a civil claim against an Institution?"]
In Australia, people are entitled to seek damages for personal injuries they suffer caused by the deliberate or negligent act of another person. Personal injuries include both the physical and psychological injuries caused by the other person’s deliberate or negligent act. This applies to child sexual abuse which a Psychiatric Expert states resulted in a psychological injury/condition (including drug, alcohol and gambling addictions).
Survivors of child abuse may be able to claim compensation for such things as treatment costs and loss of earnings. Each survivor is different and so each claim is different and you should seek legal advice to discuss your entitlements.
Making a civil claim with the right legal representation can provide survivors with the chance to build their future on their own terms.
The issues which have been identified with the current process include:
- Survivors “have been poorly treated when they have sought redress or pursued civil litigation”;
- Survivors report that they felt that they had very little control of the process involved in making a civil claim; and
- Legal practitioners have an overly adversarial manner and act with little sensitivity to the potential re-traumatising effect of litigation on a survivor.
While the current legal system is not ideal for responding to child sexual abuse, legal practitioners can use the knowledge and understanding of child sexual abuse to provide legal assistance to survivors without re-traumatising them.
With this knowledge, NLS Law is dedicated to leading the field of child sexual abuse law by establishing an innovative legal practice experienced in representing survivors of child abuse. We use a trauma-informed process to provide survivors with legal representation which empowers them and protects them from the inappropriately technical and formal legal process. Our aim is to attain justice for survivors, both financially and emotionally.
[eliteaccordion][elitetoggle title="What you can expect when you contact us"]
After you contact us, we will arrange a consultation at our office to discuss your circumstances under the strictest confidentiality and without any obligation to proceed. We will provide you with advice which will enable you to make an informed decision about whether you wish to make a claim.
Our professional fees are only paid at the successful conclusion of a claim by settlement or judgement, which is called a ‘no win/no-fee’ basis. You will be given a cost agreement which outlines how we calculate our fees for our legal services, and an estimated range of your legal costs. This means that, with the exception of “out of pocket expenses” or “disbursements” such as records and reports, you do not have to pay our professional legal fees unless you are successful in your claim.
Expenses such as report fees, medical records and court filing fees are called "disbursements" and you will have to pay for these expenses. We will discuss this in more detail during our initial conference.
[eliteaccordion][elitetoggle title="Why Survivors choose NLS Law"]
NLS Law is a small boutique firm which offers a survivor focused legal service. NLS Law only employees lawyers who have the same belief in justice and who are dedicated to seeking the best outcome for each individual client.
Each survivor has different circumstances and different needs. NLS Law will provide you with advice on the legal avenues available to you and will continue to support you, even if you decide not to proceed with a civil claim. NLS Law understands the limits of the legal system and that the practice of a survivor’s legal representative has to be sensitive to the deficiencies in the current legal process. We have found that this is the only way to ensure that survivors can achieve the justice they have so long deserved.
Every survivor is entitled to decide how involved they are in their claim. We will provide you with our expert advice so that you can decide what to do in your claim. It’s your claim so you make the decisions.
When you become a client at NLS Law, your lawyer commits to represent you right to the very end of your claim. At other firms, if your lawyer leaves the firm it is a standard for them to be unable to continue acting for you at their new firm. This is an unnecessary stress for survivors involved in an already difficult legal process and as such, at NLS Law we guarantee that our lawyers are not restricted in who they represent when they leave our firm. When you trust your story to us, you can trust that your lawyer will be there to guide you to the conclusion of your claim. No matter what.
Our entire team also regularly undergoes updated training in trauma informed practice to ensure that the NLS law’s aim of creating a new law firm model for survivors of child sexual abuse is part of the day to day work of our team.
NLS CASE STUDY: Justice for Jolene – Who endured 55 changes in care placements