Our home is meant to be our safe haven – a place where we find comfort and can close the door on all the evils in this world. Home is the place we long for when we’re feeling sad, sick or afraid. As soon as we unlock the door and step inside to be greeted by the familiar smells, sounds and sights that speak to our heart, the stress of the day melts away and we can simply be. If you’re fortunate enough, these are the feelings the term “home” will evoke in you.
Unfortunately, not everyone can call home their safe place. For some people, home equals hell. People who share their homes with abusive partners or family members, are stripped off the one place they should be able to feel safe in. Instead of feeling relief and safety upon entering their home, they feel absolute dread and anxiety. In the most common cases, domestic violence isn’t an every-day occurrence but a pattern or a cycle of abuse. Heavy periods of emotional and physical abuse are often followed by a few days, weeks or even months of calm, usually brought on by the abuser’s short-lived sense of guilt. The unpredictability of these patterns can cause survivors to be constantly walking on egg-shells in a state of heightened anxiety for fear of the next incident.
Knowing When It’s Time to Get Out
For those who have never dealt with domestic violence or sexual abuse, the question as to whether it is time to leave or not may seem redundant. If your husband beats you, you leave; if your father is abusing you, you leave; if your ex-partner threatens your children, you leave – it should be as simple as that, right? It rarely is. The psychological effects of abuse are complex and, on top of that, you will never know what might have caused a woman to stay in an abusive situation. Perhaps her children or her own life was threatened; maybe she is experiencing severe financial hardship as part of the abuse and worries she might not be able to stand on her own two feet, let alone take care of her children. Abuse has a way of affecting a survivor’s self-confidence in a most frightening manner, leaving them to doubt themselves and every decision they face.
Whatever a survivor’s reasons for having stayed in the abusive situation for as long as they have, in cases of emergency, you could be saving your life – and the life of your children – by contacting the police or a designated help center. The Scottish Women’s Aid twenty-four-hour help line is open for women, children and young people trapped in situations of domestic abuse and they can advise you on your legal and protection rights. They can talk you through the procedures of filing a report with authorities or can contact them on your behalf. They offer guidance every step of the way: from the moment you call them, to the moment you are ready to start your healing journey. They will explain all the legal and medical procedures to you in a calm, non-judgmental and non-binding manner and can refer you to the appropriate organisations dealing with temporary housing to get you set up for a new start.
Know Your Rights & Protect Yourself from Future Incidents
Without access to legal information or support regarding legal rights, it can be even more daunting for a survivor to take the first steps towards getting out of an abusive home situation. The fear of unknown procedures can be just as strong as the fear of the abuser, specifically when emotional blackmail has been at play – for example, when the abuser threatens to harm the survivor, or their children should they as much as attempt to call the police. The Scottish Women’s Aid can talk you through everything you need to know about your rights to legal protection to help you make an informed decision. Often, gaining a better understanding of these procedures can lessen the anxiety surrounding a possible report or arrest immensely.
If the abuse has been ongoing, authorities highly recommend gathering as much evidence as possible to build a criminal case against the abuser. This could include photographic evidence of injuries, bruises, etc., a secret diary detailing dates and events, nanny cams and saving any e-mails, texts or whatsapps of a threatening, incriminating nature. You have every right to make an abusive partner leave your home or apply for temporary housing yourself, and the Scottish Women’s Aid can assist you in making those arrangements.
Domestic violence, whether it happened in the form of sexual abuse or otherwise, leaves long-lasting effects on a person’s body and psyche. Even if the survivor did not suffer any physical injuries during the assault, the psychological effects can morph into psychosomatic symptoms brought on by depression, anxiety and a heightened sense of fear. While there are different charities who can offer guided counselling and a 24/7 helpline to call for support, many survivors require professional psychological treatment following sexual abuse. Depending on the case, therapy sessions aren’t always covered by the medical insurance and at an average of £50 per hour of therapy, this can quickly accumulate in a massive bill. Quite frankly, medical costs should be the last thing on the mind of anyone dealing with the aftermaths of sexual abuse but unfortunately our system is flawed.
Often survivors don’t realise that they are entitled to compensation following the physical or psychological harm of domestic violence or sexual abuse – even years following the incident. In the past, the law stated that claims had to be made within three years of the abuse, but this has now changed. You can claim compensation for sexual abuse if the abuse took place any time after September 26th, 1964, provided the victim was under eighteen years of age. The most common form of claiming compensation would be to sue the abuser and believe it or not, it takes less evidence to sue someone than it does to build a criminal case. Even children and adults who are not yet of legal age (18) have the right to sue and claim compensation provided there is an adult present.
You Have the Right to Claim Compensation
Domestic violence and sexual abuse often result in physical injuries, many of which turn into chronic pains due to poor medical assistance when they initially occurred. This is down to the fact that a high percentage of survivors will not seek medical help following a violent incident or sexual attack out of fear of being found out by the perpetrator, shame or the attacked stopping them from seeking medical assistance. Being exposed to repeated and/or continuous physical abuse and leaving concussions, broken bones and internal inflammations untreated can have serious long-term repercussions.
If the physical injuries you acquired through sexual abuse require special needs services or tools such as walking-aids, adjustable beds or back braces, you’ll have more cause to claim compensation from your abuser. You should not have to carry the responsibility for something that was done to you and have every right to be compensated for all the costs you have put towards your health and mental well-being – depending on your case, you may be entitled to up to £500,000. Although you will not be provided with legal aid upon suing your abuser, you may have the option to pay legal fees based on a no win no fee deal.
Free Legal Advice
If you are considering claiming compensation for any injuries or psychological issues sustained through sexual violence, it is important to be aware of the fact these processes are often lengthy, and the outcome is impossible to predict. You should also understand the difference between filing a criminal report and suing your abuser. While suing your abuser may result in a compensation payment, it may not result in their arrest. Appearing in court, reliving the trauma, public cross-examination and facing the abuser is often extremely stressful for victims of sexual abuse, therefore it is vital that you receive all the possible support from expert organisations, your family and your friends. The easiest way to get through a taxing court situation is with a network of loved ones behind you to keep you confident, brave and strong.
If you reported the abuse when it initially happened and local authorities or institutions failed in their duty to help and protect you, you could sue the entire organisation. This could be in the instance of a police officer or child protection team failing to investigate claims further, or an institution that allowed an abuser to remain on the staff following reports of sexual abuse and in so doing, facilitated similar instances. The legal process for claiming sex abuse compensation as such can be a lot more complex and take even more time than when a single entity is sued.