How we helped a victim ease the trauma

How we helped a victim ease the trauma

Victims of crime can find it hard to seek compensation for a crime. It is even harder when the court acquits an alleged rapist because it cannot find that the victim did not consent, in part because of the victim’s disability.

We helped Margaret (not her real name) ease the trauma of an alleged rape by assisting her to make a claim for financial assistance to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

It was an important healing step for Margaret, feeling that she had finally been listened to, and knowing that others have now acknowledged her trauma and the horror of her experience.

Margaret’s story

Margaret sat before a trial judge and jury as the victim of an alleged rape by a person she knew.

She has an intellectual disability, bi-polar disorder and a serious history of self-harming.

The question the jury had to answer was whether Margaret had consented or agreed to the alleged offence.

Throughout the trial Margaret was subjected to lengthy cross examination about her conduct, especially after the alleged rape. Police reported that Margaret did not appear to be particularly 'upset' or 'teary' after.

The trial judge made every effort to help Margaret understand the questions the defence counsel asked her, but it was clear from her answers that she had real difficulty understanding them.

The jury found it was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Margaret had not consented to the alleged rape, or that the alleged offender should have known that she was not consenting at the time.

The court acquitted the alleged offender.

Margaret was extremely traumatised, and continued to self-harm. She was unable to sleep in the bed where the alleged rape took place, and suffered from insomnia, nightmares, distress and suicidal feelings.

How we helped Margaret

When we met Margaret she was sleeping every night on the couch.

She wanted to seek financial assistance to help her overcome the effects of her trauma, including buying a new bed. She came to us for assistance in making a claim to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

The court had acquitted the alleged offender, so the tribunal wanted to know why it should find ‘on the balance of probabilities’ that Margaret had not consented.

Margaret’s Victoria Legal Aid lawyer asked the tribunal to consider her client’s allegations, which had not changed in any substantial way from the time she first reported it to the police.

Her lawyer asked the tribunal to consider Margaret’s responses and the way her disability and mental illness would have affected the ‘appropriateness’ of her responses. She also highlighted Margaret’s declining mental state following the alleged offence.

Finally, her lawyer asked the tribunal to draw from the largely therapeutic purpose of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 1996 in making its decision.

The successful result

Margaret faced huge challenges fronting court before a jury and talking about the act of violence against her.

The Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal awarded Margaret the highest available award for special financial assistance involving a serious offence under the Act.

It also awarded her some money for the cost of a holiday for Margaret and her child.

Margaret was extremely relieved with the result. She feels that the tribunal has now acknowledged her trauma and has finally listened to and accepted her traumatic experience.

How we can help you

If you have been a victim of a sexual assault, rape, violent attack or family violence, we have information about how you may be able to get financial help from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal.

You can also call us on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8.45 am to 5.15 pm, to find out how we can help you.