Last week British football was engulfed by a scandal of the likes it has never seen before. More than 20 former footballers have so far come forward with allegations of historical child sex abuse in football, with five police forces investigating.

The Football Association has announced an internal review, an NSPCC hotline has received more than 100 calls and individual clubs are conducting their own inquiries.

Adding to the developing tragic story, ex-youth football coach Barry Bennell, who is at the centre the sex abuse scandal, has been taken to hospital after being found unconscious at his home on 28th November 2016.

Unfortunately, many believe that the allegations of sexual abuse of children in football clubs is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and that there may be hundreds of victims who have not yet come forward.

This development adds to the shameful number of historic sexual abuse claims that have emerged over the years, from Jimmy Saville, to the North Wales care home scandal to sexual abuse in the Church.

It takes an enormous amount of courage for the victims of sexual abuse to come forward and tell their story. Many have suffered both physical and psychological ramifications that have affected not only their life, but that of their partners, spouses and/or children.

A duty to protect the vulnerable

Local authorities, sporting and interest clubs and anyone else who undertakes to provide services to children have a duty of care to protect children in their care from harm. However, it is clear that in the past, victims were ignored and/or authorities turned a blind eye to improper behaviour.

Examples include:

  • Jimmy Saville was given unrestricted access to hospitals and care homes for children, allowing him to commit dozens of sexual assaults.
  • In the mid-1980s, a residential careworker and then manager of a children’s home in Gwynedd, began hearing stories from children coming to her home from across Clwyd and Gwynedd about a series of child sexual and abuse incidents in various care homes. She subsequently discovered that several reports of these incidents had been made by both care and social workers, but that no procedural or disciplinary action had been taken.
  • Last year, The Methodist Church in Britain issued an “unreserved apology” for failing to protect children and adults after an independent investigation identified 1,885 reports of physical and sexual abuse within the institution dating back to the 1950s.

Bringing a claim for compensation

The first step into making a claim for compensation is to contact an experienced, sensitive, compassionate solicitor who you feel completely comfortable with. A solicitor who understands abuse cases will not ask for details of your ordeal on the first or even second meeting. He or she will simply try and establish some basic facts about when and where the abuse took place.

If the abuse has not been reported to the police, then your solicitor has a duty to suggest you do so, as a crime has been committed.

The police have specially trained units to deal with historical allegations of child sexual abuse and you will have the support of your solicitor throughout every stage of the process.

Defences raised in historical sexual abuse cases

Defendants in cases of historic child sex abuse sometimes try to rely on the three-year limitation period which usually applies when bringing a personal injury compensation claim. However, the courts are well aware that often victims do not remember or are too frightened to speak up about the horrors they have suffered for many years. Therefore, they will exercise discretion around the limitation period, but the claimant will have to explain why it took so long to come forward.

Your solicitor will help you overcome the issue of delay and obtain medical evidence to prove the damage that the abuse has caused you.

As the victim, it is crucial that you obtain as much support around you as possible. Organisations and charities dedicated to helping victims of abuse move on with their lives and mental health professionals can assist in preparing you for the case and facing those who allowed your abuser to hurt you.

Monetary compensation can never undo the damage caused by a childhood stolen by sexual abuse. But it can help you rebuild your life and obtain a sense of justice and control, something that was cruelly denied to you when you were young.

Saracens Solicitors is a multi-service law firm based in London’s West End. We have a dedicated, compassionate and highly experienced personal injury law team who have managed a number of historical sexual abuse claims. For more information, please call our office on 020 3588 3500.

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