Revised child sexual "consent" rules promote victim blaming

Earlier this month, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) revised its guidelines for providing compensation to victims of child sexual abuse. The new guidelines state that not all abuse victims will be eligible to receive compensation, depending on the circumstances of the abuse, because “consent ‘in fact’ is different from consent ‘in law.’” In other words, under the revised guidelines, even in child sexual abuse cases where the abuser has been convicted, if the victims are deemed to have consented, no harm is seen to have been sustained.

In our practice, we are painfully aware of the reality that children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults. These guidelines will make it far too easy to place blame on victims, arguing that they “consented” to sexual activity, even in cases where they were groomed or manipulated by an abuser. For children and adults already dealing with the trauma of abuse, the last thing they need is another barrier to seeking justice. We urge the CICA to reconsider its policies and to draft guidelines that will offer victims the support and compensation they need to get their lives back on track.