Catholic Church claims child sex abuse victims 'consented'

Catholic Church
Lawyers warn that this type of defence is becoming increasingly common. Photo credit: Getty

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The Catholic Church and British authorities have been accused of denying payment to hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse, including children, claiming the victims consented to the abuse. 

A group of charities claim the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, a government agency, used a legal loophole to avoid paying out settlements to those it says complied with being abused.

Lawyers representing victims have said this line of defence is becoming increasingly common.

The Independent  reported that charity Victim Support revealed a case where a 12-year-old girl was given alcohol, taken into a forest area and was sexually assaulted by a 21-year-old male. The girl was denied compensation because she had "voluntarily" gone with the man, it said.

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said "no child ever gives their 'consent' to being abused, and the increased use of this line of defence, although still quite rare, is worrying".

It was reported that documents had been seen where in two cases this defence was used. 

A claimant who was raped at the age of 15 was told by lawyers representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Southwark that his abuse "actually occurred in the context of a consensual relationship (albeit one the claimant in retrospect now appears to regret)."

The victim, who remains unnamed, said he was below the legal age of consent, "and there's a grooming element to that kind of situation".

"It was totally disregarded and made me feel really small".

The case was settled when the Catholic Church paid him out NZ$140,850.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Southwark said the church did not comment on individual cases out of respect for the claimant's privacy, and that the Archdiocese "supports the right of anyone who has suffered harm to seek compensation".

Since the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) launched in 2012 around 700 victims and survivors of child sex abuse have had their claims rejected.