If you or somebody in your family has suffered as a victim of sexual abuse, then financial assistance may be available through the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT). Applicants may be reimbursed for expenses outlaid or likely to be incurred as a result of the crime, to assist in their recovery.
Our lawyers have a sound understanding of VOCAT processes and have represented and assisted many victims to pursue their rights to financial assistance. Our experienced team will handle your matter with compassion, respect and understanding.
We will assess your case to determine your eligibility as a primary victim, a secondary victim or related victim, of an act of violence. See our separate page on ‘Compensation’ regarding the classes of victims who may be able to claim assistance.
What is an act of violence?
The definition of an ‘act of violence’ is important to determine your eligibility to claim assistance. 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’ or act that would constitute a relevant offence if the person committing it would not otherwise be incapable of being criminally responsible due to age, mental impairment or incapacity. A relevant offence 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.
To be eligible for financial assistance through VOCAT, the act of violence must be reported to the police.
Sexual abuse / sexual assault
Sexual abuse or sexual assault is undesired behaviour of a sexual nature or non-consensual sexual conduct that causes harm, makes someone feel uncomfortable, intimidated or threatened. The offence may constitute a one-off act or be carried out over several years.
Sexual abuse includes rape, incest, child abuse, sexual offences against cognitively impaired persons, sexual procurement of children, sexual servitude and unwanted sexual behaviour. It can also include conduct that does not involve touching such as forcing somebody to watch pornography.
Commonly referred to as predatory behaviour, and an abuse of power, sexual offences may occur in a range of circumstances such as:
- Public and private schools including boarding schools;
- Churches and religious institutions;
- Care facilities for children run by Government or charitable organisations;
- Juvenile justice centres;
- Foster homes;
- Circumstances where there is a position of trust such as doctor / patient, teacher / student, sports coach / participant, parent / child.
Fortunately, the insidious act of sexual abuse is now discussed more openly, and its occurrence more widely acknowledged, paving the way for survivors to come forward and seek assistance and / or compensation.
The assistance scheme prescribes the maximum amount of financial assistance payable to victims – to understand how these payments are made see our separate page on ‘Compensation’.
Primary victims may be eligible for financial assistance of up to $60,000.
Primary victims against whom certain acts of violence have been committed (including certain sexual offences), and who have suffered a significant adverse effect (substantial grief, trauma, distress or injury) may also receive special financial assistance. This is an additional payment of up to $10,000 in recognition of the harm suffered by the victim.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual abuse, then financial assistance may be available through VOCAT, by instigating civil proceedings against the perpetrator, or through an institutional redress scheme. Obtaining early legal advice will ensure all options are considered so your rights are fully exhausted.
When you consult with our lawyers, your matter will be treated with discretion and sensitivity. We will take detailed instructions to determine the most appropriate means of seeking compensation and work with you every step of the way to ensure you receive all the help and support available to assist in your recovery.