New Hope for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse?

August 30th, 2019  |  Published in Childhood; Abuse, Guest posts

Keith Thomas Davis writes from his own experience in this guest post for 2020socialjustice, advocating new hope for Survivors of childhood sexual abuse. “Never, ever give up in the pursuit of justice,” Keith urges, as a preface to his story as follows.

pursuit of justice

Survivors take on the Goliath of Institutions

Many Survivors, when they initiate a claim against an Institution for historical instances of childhood sexual abuse, are mired in poverty. They cannot afford, psychologically or financially, to hang on long enough for their cases to receive a fair hearing in Court. It often takes years for cases to be heard.

Institutions such as the Catholic Church are well aware of this reality, and put pressure on Survivors to accept unsatisfactory Settlements via the mediation process.

I know what I am talking about. Because that was my direct experience in dealing with the Church. They knew I was mired in poverty as a result of enduring a lifetime of effects from my abuse. They utilised that fact to pressure me into accepting a compensation figure that was woefully lower than would have reasonably been awarded by a Court.

Settlements silence Survivors

I can understand that most people simply do not understand the process that Survivors have to go through to seek justice. The system, via Gag Orders etc., is designed to keep us quiet. The techniques and methods used by the Churches to minimise or defeat claims are rarely aired in the public arena.Gag Orders They need to be aired.

I was, and am, very unhappy with the Settlement terms. The compensation figure was low and did not compensate me for a lifetime lost.

There was no apology offered, no remorse shown, and no offer of remedial therapy. I felt brow-beaten into accepting their ‘offer’. I felt pushed aside and treated as an annoyance who needed to be quickly silenced.

I have a voice…and intend to use it

Well, I am not an annoyance. I am a human being. I have a voice. And, where possible, in a legal sense, I intend to use my voice to highlight the methods used by Churches etc. to suppress legitimate claims.

Some will say that ‘nobody forced you to sign the thing’. My response to such nonsense is that my impoverished state, and the unending pressure from the Church, did indeed force me to sign the bloody thing.

There is a legal Gag Order placed on me, as on many Survivors, but that gag order does not stop me speaking my mind. And, I have recently found out that you can actually appeal against an Unfair Settlement in Queensland…I intend to do just that.

I have an avenue of appeal…and intend to use it

The following three paragraphs come from an article that I saw in Guardian Australia.

“Child sexual abuse survivors will be able to launch fresh lawsuits against churches and schools that forced them into unfair settlements under new laws passed in Queensland, the first of their kind in Australia.

Queensland’s statute of limitations on compensation claims for child sexual abuse has been used by institutions to limit out-of-court payouts to thousands of dollars, far less than those awarded by a court.

This is not about money, but rather acknowledging the life-long pain and suffering of child abuse victims and providing just compensation so they can receive counselling and the help they need as a result of the betrayal suffered in their youth.”

Refusing to be silenced

This is not about money…but money tips the scales against Survivors

The majority of Survivors are not rich people. They are poor people. They cannot afford to hire a Legal Team to stand against the bevy of Lawyers and Barristers used by the Churches and other Institutions to fritter down and negate justified claims.

Survivors are caught in a bind because of poverty. They have to rely on the ‘umbrella’ afforded by No Win No Fee law firms. Unless those firms are very sure that the case will be won they have to utilise common sense and decline to take it on. Which leaves some Survivors with a justified claim they cannot afford to pursue on their own.

Survivors in that position are forced to rely on the National Redress Scheme. I’m not surprised that a lot of Churches and Institutions have signed up to that Scheme. If any sort of compensation is paid out to an individual under that Scheme it is going to be an awfully lot less than what a Court would reasonably award. In my opinion only, the Scheme unintentionally favours the Churches etc. and disadvantages the Survivors. The Scheme has unintended consequences.

Porters Lawyers in Canberra represented me up to the compulsory mediation stage. They were excellent. I am in a position to say, given my experience of them, that they went above and beyond. It surprised me that I was not included in the mediation. But, that was not in the power of my lawyers to do anything about. The mediation was a compulsory sort of meeting between the legal teams only.

ptsd brainMany Survivors are riddled with depression and PTSD. I am one of them. Our condition often precludes us from taking on behemoth institutions like the Catholic Church.

It is important to note that I believe most religious people are decent folk. Any action I take is against the Institution that made no effort whatsoever to protect my younger self from incessant abuse.

I will not be silent or silenced

Law is a malleable thing. It can be bent every which way by highly paid Barristers etc. I may be told that I have a right to re-initiate my claim on the grounds that it was unfair, or I may be told to just go away and stay quiet. Either way I intend to test things. I do not intend to remain quiet.

I am resilient To my valued friends I would say don’t be concerned for my well being as I embark on this journey. I am a far stronger, more resilient and determined person than the one who was initially walked all over and pushed aside by the Church. To strangers I would say, if you know someone in a similar situation, encourage them to never give up.

To initiate another round of legal action is not an easy thing to do or countenance. It would be far easier to stay hidden away in the background.

Many people might not realise that when you initiate a claim, in order for a medico-legal report to be produced, your whole life and being is subject to a rigorous forensic examination by Psychiatrists appearing for either side of the case. Sometimes that examination is empathetic, and sometimes it is acidly adversarial.

Either way, you are forced over a number of years to continually re-live and recall the instances of your abuse in full never-ending detail simply to prove that your claim is justified. No wonder the process so completely demolishes so many people.

Churches drag out claims for as long as possible. They subject the Survivor, who is in a very vulnerable position to begin with, to a long period of sustained pressure. My initial experience with my claim against the Church drove me to the edge. I learnt a lot from that.

They will not do that to me again.

I will not be silent.

If I continue to do that, then I think that not only would I be doing a disservice to myself, I would be doing a disservice to other Survivors in a similar position. And, I would be doing a disservice to those who could no longer bear the pain, and who are no longer with us…My heart and my resolve beats strongly for them.

Keith Thomas Davis (see bio following) is a writer and commentator. Keith has regular articles in AIMN (Australian Independent Media Network) among other outlets. I much appreciate Keith’s permission to share this story here as a guest post for 2020socialjustice…Joan Beckwith.

Keith writes of himself…I am a human being. I have experienced the horrors of incessant Keith Thomas Davis photochildhood sexual abuse and I live with clinical depression of the permanent variety and a shade of PTSD that is virtually unshakeable.

My experiences have taught me what love is, and what the opposite to love is. My experiences have, upon reflection and later in my life, freed up my voice and my brain and my heart. I oppose inequality, social injustice, and unfairness, in all their variety of forms.

I am a writer. You may choose other methods, suitable to you, to contribute to the greater good. I use what I can, the power of words.”


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NOTE: If you like this post, you might find others of interest in the category on Power & Politics. Additionally, the Favorites category brings together posts from across all main categories and provides a sense of the scope of the website and blog…Joan Beckwith

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One comment on “New Hope for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse?”

  1. In this later article, Keith Thomas Davis writes of an experience visiting the Port Arthur convict penitentiary in Tasmania, a situation seemingly unrelated to the abuse in his history, in which the solitary confinement “punishment cell” acts as a metaphor for “the prison of the mind that many Survivors are incarcerated in”. His reflections provide deeper understanding of some effects of abuse.

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