Institutional Abuse Myths and Facts

Kate Ross

Kate Ross

Head of Abuse Claims

If you are a survivor of historical or institutional abuse, you deserve to know the facts about your legal rights. 

If you are confused about your legal options, allow Littles to bust some myths that commonly prevent survivors from embarking on their journey toward justice. 

MYTH: I suffered long term physical abuse while attending a state school in the 1970s. I can’t seek financial compensation for abuse if it was not sexual abuse.

FACT: The Victorian, New South Wales and (most recently) Queensland governments have amended key legislation which now allows survivors to commence a civil action in relation to physical abuse and psychological abuse, in addition to sexual abuse. These limitation periods have also been abolished with retrospective effect. This means that in NSW, Queensland Victoria, you may be able to bring a claim for serious physical abuse at any time, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. Sadly, in other states and territories, survivors may not have this option. However, there may be further changes to the law on the horizon. Get in touch with our Littles experts today to know your rights.

MYTH: I won’t be able to pursue a common law claim against the responsible institution because my records have been destroyed and the person who harmed me has died.

FACT: With the passing of time, it is common for institutional records to have been destroyed, or for key witnesses or perpetrators to have died. While this may present some challenges, you can still progress a successful common law claim. Our past and current clients have provided permission for us to build a database of evidence about institutions and perpetrators where abuse is known or suspected to have taken place. Information we have gathered is used to corroborate and support subsequent survivors who decide to progress a claim. While we strictly uphold confidentiality, our clients feel empowered knowing their story may help support and encourage others to come forward. Get in touch with our Littles experts today to know your rights.

MYTH: If I progress a common law claim against the responsible institution, I will be required to report the abuse to the police.

FACT: Reporting the abuse to the authorities is not always a requirement in order for you to progress a successful common law claim. Get in touch with our Littles experts today to know your rights.

MYTH: I am a sexual abuse survivor. The institution responsible is participating in the National Redress Scheme. I have to try to seek assistance through that scheme before I can see a lawyer.

FACT: If the abuse was sexual in nature and occurred before 1 July 2018 when you were a child (under 18 years of age), you can choose to seek support and assistance through the National Redress Scheme if the responsible institution has chosen to participate in the scheme. This can include receiving a direct personal statement, access to support services, and a payment of redress up to $150,000. If you accept a redress payment under the National Redress Scheme, you cannot commence a civil action against the responsible institution (that is, you cannot sue the institution at fault). Similarly, you cannot seek redress through the scheme if you have received compensation through a civil action against the same institution. Redress payments are assessed very differently to how your compensation may be assessed at common law through a civil action. While it is not a legal requirement for you to seek legal advice before accepting an offer of redress, we encourage you to first seek legal advice from a lawyer who can assess your prospects of success in pursuing a civil action, and other options that may be available. Similarly, if you feel that what the scheme provides is not suitable or sufficient for your circumstances, you should seek legal advice before accepting an offer of redress. For more information about the National Redress Scheme, visit National Redress Scheme. You can also get in touch with our Littles experts today to know your rights.

MYTH: I can only seek financial compensation in relation to sexual abuse if the abuse I experienced occurred before 1 July 2018.

FACT: You can only seek a redress payment of up to $150,000 from the National Redress Scheme if the sexual abuse occurred before 1 July 2018 and you were born before 30 June 2010. In Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, you can generally commence a common law claim against the responsible institution for sexual, physical or psychological abuse regardless of when the abuse occurred. Other states and territories have abolished the limitation period with respect to sexual abuse only, and are yet to allow survivors to progress a civil action out of time for other forms of abuse, such as physical abuse. Each state and territory within Australia have differing laws, so get in touch with our Littles experts today to know your rights.

Keep in mind

Your physical and mental health is the number one priority. We know that the pain and suffering of survivors can be immense and can extend to families and loved ones. Seek out reputable community groups and support services who have specialist experience in assisting and supporting survivors.

The legal path towards assistance, redress and compensation is complex. You deserve to have a full and accurate picture of your rights based on your unique circumstances. Consult a lawyer with a demonstrated history in representing abuse survivors, but also choose someone you feel comfortable speaking with, someone who you can trust, and who respects your right to confidentiality.

Why Littles?

At Littles, we are experts in abuse law, and have helped numerous survivors of sexual, physical and psychological abuse navigate their pathways towards receiving acknowledgement and justice. Institutional abuse of our children is Australia’s national disgrace, and we stand strong and ready to assist the thousands of people whose lives have been irrevocably impacted.

  • We communicate your way – no legalese
  • We offer our services on a No Win, No Fee basis
  • We can put you in touch with a network of community groups and support services to support you on your journey.

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