Many victims suffering from an act of violence may not have recourse to compensation through schemes such as those established for motor accidents or work incidents. A common law claim for damages may also be futile if a perpetrator does not have the means to pay the claim. In such cases, a victim may obtain financial assistance through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT).
If you have suffered injury from an act of violence, then financial assistance may be available. Our lawyers have a sound understanding of VOCAT processes and have represented and assisted many victims to pursue their rights to financial assistance.
What is an act of violence?
An ‘act of violence’ is a criminal act or series of related criminal acts that have occurred in Victoria and have directly resulted in injury or death. A ‘criminal act’ means a ‘relevant offence’ which includes:
- An offence punishable on conviction by imprisonment that involves an assault on or injury or a threat of injury to a person;
- Common law rape or assault with intent to rape, indecent assault, incest, and other sexual offences;
- Stalking, child stealing or kidnapping;
- Conspiring to commit any of the above offences.
What is an assault?
An assault is any act which causes another person to apprehend immediate and unlawful personal violence, or the actual intended use of unlawful force to another person without his or her consent.
An assault can occur in various circumstances and may arise whether or not actual physical force is applied. In an aggravated assault, the perpetrator uses actual force, and various factors will increase the severity of the offence, such as the intention of the perpetrator, the vulnerability of the victim and the extent of the harm suffered.
The assault may be physical, psychological or sexual. See also our separate pages on ‘Family Violence’ and ‘Sexual Abuse’.
Am I eligible to claim financial assistance if I have been assaulted?
Generally, yes, if you have suffered injury or financial loss as a direct result of the act of violence. An eligible applicant may be a primary victim (the person against whom the act of violence is committed), a secondary victim (a person injured as a result of witnessing
an act of violence or assisting a primary victim), or a related victim (a dependant, close family member or person in an intimate relationship with a primary victim who dies from the act of violence).
If you have been assaulted you should contact the police immediately and, if you feel you are in danger, consider applying for an intervention order against the perpetrator. See our separate page on ‘Intervention Orders’.
The perpetrator need not be arrested, charged or convicted to make an application for financial assistance however, the act of violence must be reported to the police.
It is important to obtain medical assistance if you have been assaulted, even if you do not have any obvious or initial injuries. Incident reports, medical treatment and hospital notes will assist in establishing your injury and loss. Photographic evidence of any physical injuries or damage to clothing will also assist in substantiating a claim for financial assistance through VOCAT.
Successful applicants may be reimbursed for medical and other expenses outlaid, or likely to be incurred as a result of their injuries. For more information on the type of assistance available see our separate page on ‘Compensation’.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of an assault, financial assistance may be available through VOCAT, by instigating civil proceedings against the perpetrator, or through an institutional redress scheme. The compensation scheme available depends on the circumstances and the nature of the offence. Obtaining early legal advice will ensure all options are considered so your rights are fully exhausted.