It’s estimated that there are 60,000 survivors of institutional child sexual abuse in Australia. And for each of these survivors, there are people close to them – such as children, friends and partners – supporting their recovery.
If you are supporting a survivor, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to best help them. Similarly, if your friend or loved one is contemplating seeking justice, or if you’d like to suggest they consider it, you may be looking for information to understand what the process would be.
This article provides advice on how to support an abuse survivor – from your initial discussions through to seeking justice.
Whether your loved one has recently confided in you, or you’ve known about their experience for many years, the most valuable support you can provide is to listen. The Blue Knot website has
It’s a good idea to:
For many survivors – and those who support them – there will come a time when they consider seeking justice. When this conversation happens, you might to like to offer to research the pathways available.
The first thing to know is that there are two options available for seeking justice.
The alternative is to go through a legal process, called a civil damages claim. For this, you will need a lawyer to assist you in bringing the case. Some key points to know about making a civil damages claim:
If the person you are supporting decides to make a legal claim, they will need to choose a law firm and lawyer to act on their behalf. This is another time where you might like to offer to do some research, as this can be a difficult step for survivors who still experience trauma.
It’s a good idea to look for law firms that:
Before you make contact with any law firm, it’s important you have consent from the survivor. At Maurice Blackburn we can have an initial (and free) conversation with you, providing you have permission from your loved one. However, after that conversation – if it sounds like we can help – we will need to speak with the survivor before proceeding with the case.
Once your loved one chooses a lawyer, and the legal process begins, you can remain involved to support them. While the survivor will always be the primary contact, it can be valuable to have a support person involved – to take notes, ask questions and provide emotional support.
Each state and territory in Australia has different child sexual abuse laws. For that reason, the process for making a civil damages claim will differ depending on where the survivor lives.
You and your loved one should speak to your lawyer to understand the steps involved for your specific situation.
In cases of abuse, psychological injuries are often severe and stay with survivors throughout their life. Supporting someone through this can take an emotional toll. For adult children of abuse survivors – who may have been witness to their parents’ suffering for many years – this can be even more profound.
As a supporter, it’s important you take time to look after your own well-being. Taking time to exercise, eat well and do things you enjoy will help you manage your own mental health. Doing this will help you deal with the emotional stress of your support role.
Here at Maurice Blackburn we recommend the following support services: