Fair financial redress for abuse survivor
A recent decision of Justice Cavanagh of the Supreme Court highlights that survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse suffer horrific permanent injuries for which Courts are prepared to award considerable damages.
The identity of the survivor was suppressed under a non publication order. The survivor was a student at de la Salle College Revesby Heights in 1983 and 1984. He had the great misfortune of entering into the orbit of a sexual predator who committed sexual assaults on him as a year 11 year old boy.
The survivor never revealed what had happened to him until hearing and reading about many other victims who came forward to be heard during and after the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.
While the assaults occurred in the early 1980s the Plaintiff did not file his Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court until March 2021. He was permitted to do that because, the NSW Government adopted the recommendation of the Royal commission that limitations periods for child sexual abuse be abolished.
Unfortunately the de la Salle Brothers made no admissions in response to the survivor’s claim and in fact denied that they were liable for the conduct of the sexual predator. The case was originally allocated a ten day hearing however it only proceeded for three days, no doubt because many of the legal arguments adopted by the Brothers proved to be unarguable.
Justice Cavanagh believed the survivor. His evidence was that his life had been irreparably ruined by the sexual assaults leading to drug addiction and considerable periods spent in custody.
To highlight the position adopted by the Brothers the following is an example of a question that was put to the survivor by their Senior Counsel:
“You’ve set out to do things in this case. The first is you’ve set out to blame every misstep in your life, every mistake – to blame every one of them upon abuse you say you suffered at the hands of (the predator); you’ve done that, haven’t you?
Hard to believe anyone could even think that let alone ask that question, right?
Justice Cavanagh awarded the survivor $300,000 for general damages and aggravated damages, interest on past damages, damages of over $650,000 for loss of income and future loss of earning capacity and considerable damages for loss of superannuation and future medical treatment all totalling in excess of $1.1 million. The Brothers were also ordered to pay the survivor’s legal costs.
In his reasons Justice Cavanagh said many things including the following:
“I accept that the emergence of so many people subject to historical sexual abuse and the Royal Commission brought it all flooding back to the plaintiff leading him to seek relief and compensation through legal representation.”
Regrettably, and sadly I am presently representing over 100 survivors of child sex abuse. It is however my great privilege and honour to do this and to be able to hopefully help, in some small way, these people restore something of their damaged lives. It is not an exaggeration to say there was an epidemic of sexual predation on children in the periods leading right up until the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission gave a voice to survivors and gave many of them both the knowledge and courage to pursue their legal rights. Survivors of historical child sex abuse should feel no shame. Organisations such as the de la Salle Brothers, no doubt assisted by legal advice, continue to deny these claims and put survivors through the legal process. This is a scourge and the antithesis of what many of these institutions say they stand for.
So many survivors say they never thought anyone would believe them.
I believe you.
If you or a family member feel that you were the victim of sexual abuse as a child please contact me for a confidential discussion about your legal rights. My team and I will help you.