Claiming compensation for rape & other
The compensation workshop was attended by over 30 people including 15 rape survivors. Lawyers and other organizations such as the National Association for People Abused in Childhood spoke about their work. Others came to find out how they could be helpful.
After an introduction by Nina Lopez-Jones the chair of the workshop, Rachel Burley from LAW outlined the different kinds of compensation and how the experience of rape survivors is common to all claimants.
Lisa Longstaff from Women Against Rape explained the importance of women being able to claim compensation. Only 7% of reported rapes result in conviction and for any woman, official recognition that a serious crime has been committed against her is a vital first step in the healing process. Where the attacker is not convicted, criminal injuries compensation can provide that vital acknowledgement, although awards from the CICA have been dramatically capped since 1996, when a tariff (fixed sum per injury) was introduced. Currently, women can get £11,000 for rape. Ms Longstaff described the main problems rape survivors face in claiming compensation, such as not being informed of their right to claim, or who can help, use of their sexual and medical history to humiliate and dismiss them, discriminating on the basis of a woman’s occupation or criminal convictions, including for minor offences such as prostitution, shoplifting or possession of cannabis.
Women then spoke very movingly about their experience of claiming compensation.
A woman described being raped at knifepoint while working as a prostitute. With the support of LAW she had brought the first private prosecution in England and Wales; the serial rapist got 11 years. She was refused compensation and appealed. Represented by WAR she was finally given a reduced award of £5000, reduced by 1/3 for her “unlawful activities”. One CICA Appeal Panelist, stated at the hearing that “the rape of a prostitute was not the same as for an ordinary woman”.
Another woman attacked and left with severe injuries described how she was misled into signing a no win no fee agreement by her lawyer which would give the lawyer one third of any award despite the fact that she was entitled to legal aid. The solicitor then contacted the English Collective of Prostitutes, based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre for advice as he had no experience of doing cases such as these! The ECP referred the case to LAW and we are currently trying to get her released from this dishonest agreement.
Niki Adams described working with WAR to advise lawyers how to conduct a case and in particular helping women to bring out the full extent of the impact of the rape on them. Liz Dux from Russell Jones and Walker Solicitors who specializes in this area answered a wide range of questions. Everyone was very encouraged to hear that legal aid is available for a Mackenzie friend at the hearing if the woman is unable to represent herself.
Participants were shocked at the systematic hostility and discrimination that women face but admiring of women’s persistence and courage. People commented that they had learned an enormous amount and a number of lawyers came forward, including representatives from a prestigious city firm, to offer pro-bono advice. Two workers from advice agencies who had been trying to help women claim compensation said they felt much better informed about how to proceed. We also resolved to continue the pressure on the CICA, including by exposing those who express sexism.
We met afterwards to plan the follow-up work needed on women’s cases. We wrote to the Home Office and probation service about the release of the man who was convicted as a result of our private prosecution. Several women who had won their case were interested in helping others. We are compiling a rights sheet on how to claim compensation based on the information from the workshop. The workshop was videoed and may be edited and distributed at a later date.