ONE less hurdle for victims of child abuse in Victoria has now been removed.
Victims of child abuse in this state will be able to seek civil damages regardless of when the abuse occurred thanks to new laws to remove complex time limitations.
The change in state laws was a result of the Betrayal of Trust report by the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse of religious and other non-government organisations.
This will mean victims who suffered abuse decades ago will still be able to seek damages from those responsible, including organisations.
Under current laws civil claims must be brought within either six years from the date on which the victim realises they have been abused by the victim, or 12 years from the date of the alleged abuse – whichever is earlier.
But if the alleged abuser is a parent, guardian or close associate of a parent, there is a longer time frame, including up until the victim turns 37.
The change in state laws will be welcomed news for the many victims of clergy and organisational abuse in Ballarat from many decades ago.
For many of the Ballarat victims, time limitations had been a major hurdle to seeking litigation. For those already suffering the trauma of decades-old abuse – many in silence – the news announced on Tuesday would be a relief. Some organisations responsible for the abuse had hidden behind the time limitation defence to dodge civil litigation in the past, adding further to the suffering of child abuse victims, who believed the action was not only a way to seek compensation, but also a “form of acknowledgement and accountability for the harm they have suffered”, the inquiry found.
Many victims of child abuse suffer in silence for decades. Some feel they are the only ones to have endured it. Others feel they would not be believed, even by their families. For whatever reason, these victims find the strength to speak out years later and, in the past, may have left it too late to file for compensation due to the old and complex time limitations, only adding to their heartache.
The change in state laws mean this barrier is now removed, hopefully prompting more victims to speak out.