A woman who was sexually abused at home by her elder half-brother between the ages of seven and nine has been awarded £16,500 compensation.
The award follows the abolishment of the ‘same roof rule’ – a law which until recently prevented people from claiming damages if abused by those they lived before October 1979.
Hudgell Solicitors made a successful compensation claim to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) on her behalf.
The woman, now 58, told how she found the courage to tell her mother what her half-brother had been doing when she was nine years old, only to be accused of being a ‘liar’ and told never to repeat her allegations.
Although she says the abuse stopped at that point, she says lifelong damage had already been caused, and as a young child she was left in a positon where she could not escape and had to pray it didn’t happen again.
“My half-brother, who was my mum’s son from a previous relationship, was aged 18 when I was only seven and my parents would go out on a weekend and leave us alone at home. That’s when he’d come into my room and he’d make me do things such as touching him,” she said.
“It also happened on a nighttime when I had gone to bed. My parents would be downstairs and he’d come into my room. When I was nine I finally found the courage to say what was happening as I knew it was wrong and I feared being left alone with him.
“I looked to my mother for help and support but she just grabbed me by the shoulders and said I was a liar. I was told not to say anything again and she said I’d never see my own brother and sister again if I repeated what I had said.
“I feel looking back now that I lost my childhood and my mother due to what happened and how she handled it. As a nine-year-old girl I had nowhere to go and there was nothing I could have done.”
Woman reported crimes to police almost 50 years after being abused
The abuse, which happened between 1968 and 1970, was something the woman, of Perivale, Ealing, carried with her for close to 50 years, until another female relation spoke out to allege that he had abused her too as a child.
“That was a really shocking moment for me as, until that point, I’d not thought about the other young girls in our family at the time,” said the woman.
“I’d buried it away for so many years but when this happened, as an adult, I knew I had to see it through the right legal process and through the police and the courts.
“He faced charges relating to me and my relation, but due to the time that had passed, and being closer in age to the other girl, he was only convicted of charges relating to me, after a second trial.”
The criminal process resulted in the woman’s elder half-brother receiving a six-and-a-half year prison sentence last September, and earlier this year their mother died having never forgiven her daughter for the allegations she made.
“My mother didn’t forgive me and I have struggled to forgive her,” she said.
“After I had been to the police we didn’t speak and I have sometimes wished I had spoken to her after the trial, but I didn’t because I knew she’d have tried to put the blame on me. I feel she knew the truth but wouldn’t accept it.
“I’ll always be disappointed in her. I was a little girl who went to her desperate for her to save me, but she didn’t. I know it must have been devastating for her little girl to say such a thing to her about her own elder son, but she should have thought about the other young girls in the family, as well as me.
“The abuse stopped at that point, and my mother would always make sure she was upstairs if I had gone to bed and he was in the home afterwards. I’m not sure if she ever confronted my step-brother about what had happened.”
Case remained on hold until ‘Same Roof Rule’ was abolished – paving way for thousands of claims
Following the conclusion of the court case in September 2018, the woman was advised by police to pursue compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
At the time, she was unable to pursue damages due to the ‘Same Roof Rule’ still being in place, but she was advised by specialists at Hudgell Solicitors that the matter was under review by the Government and that the law was expected to be overturned, as it was on June 13, 2019.
Having collated all relevant information to make an application during that time, a successful claim for damages was made.
The CICA has confirmed that 4,000 applications were previously refused under the Same Roof Rule from 1964 onwards, and that it expects 70 per cent of those cases to now result in damages payments being awarded should people reapply.
It has also said that there could be as many as 3,500 new applicants come forward now that the law is being changed.
Tracy Chapman, of Hudgell Solicitors, handled the claim to the CICA on the woman’s behalf and says it demonstrates why the recent change of law was so badly needed.
“Had this lady come to us two or three years ago we would had sadly had to advise her that under the law there was no route to compensation due to the law around living with abusers,” she said.
“It is expected that thousands of people abused at home as children have been denied compensation they are deserving of prior to the law was changed in July, so we have been urging people previously denied to contact us.
“Our client had spoken out at the age of nine as a child and had found her mother wasn’t prepared to listen.
“It is only right now that for her, and so many others like her, that the law does listen and is set up to offer them the legal redress they deserve.”
The woman added: “Compensation can’t change what happened to me or give me my childhood back, but it can bring some closure to it all which I feel it has done.
“The police officer said to me that it would pay for a nice holiday and that’s what I intend to use it for with my husband, as we have both had a difficult couple of years since I went to the police, and eventually through two court trials as the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict the first time around.
“It has been difficult over the last two years, but also a hugely difficult burden to carry for 50 years. I hope this law change helps others reach a similar outcome.
“It was a ridiculous law because as a child you can’t escape abuse unless an adult helps you and takes you from the situation.”