Model letter to MPs re compensation – please use

Please adjust accordingly and send this letter to your local MP (find your MP’s name and contact details here)

[your address or email]

Dear [insert full name of MP]

As your constituent I urge you to take action to update the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme for victims of crime, in particular for victims of rape and other sexual violence.

I am part of a grassroots campaign of survivors who are being treated extremely unfairly by the Scheme. We are working with Women Against Rape to spell out the main ways in which the Scheme discriminates against us as women and children victims of crime.

My experience of claiming compensation was…[insert one/two paragraphs – OPTIONAL].

Winning justice and compensation is official recognition and a crucial step to recovery. We appeal to you to support our campaign to change the following rules and practices:

  1. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) denies compensation to victims who delayed reporting to the police – Paragraph 23.
    As you may know, rape can be so traumatic to the victim that they may be unable to speak about it for some years. Many of us also experience shame, and pressure from others to stay silent.
  2. Living under thesame roof with your attacker before October 1979 disqualifies you from receiving compensation – Paragraph 19.
    Before 1979 the rule was that if your attacker lived in the same household as you, you were not entitled to compensation. It denies compensation to victims even those whose rapist was convicted. The excuse was that your attacker might benefit from your award. In 1979 that rule was abolished, but it was not made retrospective. Therefore, if you were raped before 1979, the discredited rule continues to apply to you. Between 2008-2013, for example, 502 victims of rape were denied an award under this discredited rule.

Since the Savile scandal more victims raped as children were encouraged to come forward, but are then denied compensation. A significant proportion of all rapes are committed by family members, and these crimes are among the most abusive and injurious. Retrospective payments must be awarded to those denied.

  1. Victims of rape who have criminal convictions are denied compensation – Paragraphs 25-27.
    Since 2015, at least 385 victims of sexual violence had been refused because of a conviction.[1] Convictions for non-violent and minor offences, including theft, drink-driving or an unpaid TV licence are routinely used to deny victims an award. The CICA claims that the state having once prosecuted us nullifies any claim we have for compensation as it was a drain on public resources. Instead, they should value the public service we performed of bringing a rapist to justice, protecting everyone’s safety. In any case, they punish us twice – first for the crime that we committed, and secondly for the crime against us. This affects some of the most vulnerable victims, penalising those who may have been criminalised as a result of the rape trauma they have endured. Victims often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to soothe their pain, and then get convicted. Sex workers face moralistic judgements on their ‘character and conduct’, even those without criminal convictions. We don’t want divisive moral judgements by the CICA as either good or bad victims.
  2. Time limit – Paragraphs 87-89.
    There is a two year time limit after the crime to make a claim to the CICA, or if it occurred when the victim was a child, two years from our 18th birthday. This rule disregards the common delays and pressures we face in rape investigations and trials. Sexual crimes take a notoriously long time to investigate and get to and through court. Also, the police advise victims not to claim until the end of a trial as defence barristers often argue that compensation is a motive for a false allegation. Such delays may put your claim out of time through no fault of your own. Secondly, the trauma of rape and the prosecution process (often called ‘the second rape’) prevents many victims from applying within two years. The time limit must be extended to at least five years, longer for those raped as children.
  3. Victims have to co-operate with the prosecution as far as reasonably possible – Paragraph 23.
    WAR has worked with victims who were denied compensation despite being sexually propositioned by their investigating officer, and with others who got dismissive sexist or racist treatment from the police. Yet these flagrant abuses of power were not considered by the CICA as legitimate reasons for victims to withdraw from the prosecution. Also, if the police are hostile and give evidence against us getting an award, the CICA invariably values their word over the victim’s.
  4. There is no legal aid and unrepresented survivors can face extremely hostile and upsetting questioning by CICA lawyers.
    It can be even worse than in criminal courts – with questions like, what we wore and why we didn’t scream. CICA appeals which are held in private, evading public scrutiny, have fallen behind updated protection for vulnerable witnesses in criminal and other courts. The CICA internal guidance for questioning vulnerable witnesses is neither public nor transparent and evades legal challenge.
  5. Victims below 16, the legal age of consent, are denied compensation.
    So far over 700 girls since 2012 were refused compensation as the CICA decided they had ‘consented to sex’, even where their attacker had been prosecuted in criminal court. So the rape of children as defined in law is not necessarily illegal for the CICA. How can the CICA be allowed to contradict the criminal law in this way? Embarrassing publicity recently forced the government to think again about definitions of rape of children. But they only told the CICA to take ‘grooming’ into account. Not all girls who were raped by older men were first groomed and therefore the CICA can still say they consented.

As you may be aware, compensation is often the only official acknowledgement of rape we get, given the low conviction rate of 6%.

In addition, an award can speed recovery practically, as many women suffer catastrophic mental and physical injuries: years of suicidal thoughts, sleeplessness, substance abuse and the inability to relate to people. Those with mental health problems struggle to get treatment from the depleted NHS and dwindling therapeutic services — many face years on a waiting list and rationed appointments. In addition, we suffer life changing impacts such as losing a job, eviction, marital breakdown, being unable to cope with children, fear of public transport . . .

The basic award for rape is a mere £11,000, and this does not stretch far. Amounts should be increased, and decisions speeded up. There is a minefield of rules which put people off, as described above. Most don’t even know the Scheme exists or applies to them.

Please contact me urgently to discuss what you can do to help. We aim to gather a group of MPs to take action with us. Please support this campaign so that victims of sexual crimes are no longer blamed for an attack we suffered, and get the urgent help and acknowledgement we need in order to recover.

Please also copy your reply to Women Against Rape (war@womenagainstrape.net) with whom I am working against gross injustice.

Yours sincerely,

[put your name]

Copy to Women Against Rape

[1] Independent, 28 October 2017 Hundreds of sexual assault victims refused compensation for minor convictions; See also Rape victims denied compensation for petty convictions – Guardian and Hundreds of rape victims denied compensation in Scottish Herald

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