Child victims of sexual exploitation are being refused compensation from a government agency on the grounds they “consented”, campaigners have said.
A coalition of charities including Barnardo’s and Victim Support want an urgent review of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority’s guidelines.
They say the rules do not reflect the fact the legal age of consent is 16.
Children as young as 12 have reportedly been denied payments even after their attackers have been jailed.
The charities say the rules should be changed “so no child groomed and manipulated into sexual abuse is denied compensation because they complied with their abuse through fear, lack of understanding, or being brainwashed into believing their abuser loved them”.
‘Not direct victim’
The group, which also include Liberty, Rape Crisis and the National Working Group, has written to the Justice Secretary David Lidington.
According to a Freedom of Information request from Victim Support, 693 child victims of sexual abuse have been refused compensation since 2012.
The charity said the authorities did not state how many of these were denied because they “consented” to their sexual relationship,
Instead, the children were told their application was being denied because they were “not a direct victim of violence”.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “For children to be denied compensation on the grounds that they consented to the abuse they have suffered is nothing short of scandalous.”
Director of Liberty, Martha Spurrier, said: “Perpetrators manipulate children into situations that look like consent.
“No child can consent to abuse, which is why the criminal law rightly says they are simply unable to do so.”
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is open to applications from people who sustain a criminal injury “directly attributable to their being a direct victim of a crime of violence”.
This can include a sexual assault to which a person did not “in fact” consent.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “This government is committed to doing everything possible to support victims. We will look closely at the concerns raised by these charities that some victims are not getting the compensation they deserve.
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“The issue of compensation for victims is currently being examined by the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, and the Ministry of Justice is contributing to its important work.”