Getting help and compensation if you were abused as a child

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you were abused as a child, you can get specialist support to help you deal with what happened.

You might also want to:

  • report the abuse to the police

  • see any records that have been kept about you

  • claim compensation

If you’re not sure you were abused, you can check what counts as child abuse.

Getting specialist support

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) give advice to adults who’ve been abused in childhood. They can refer you to local counselling, support and help groups. You can find out more about NAPAC on their website. 

Women and girls who have experienced sexual violence can get specialist support, counselling and services from Rape Crisis centres. You can find a Rape Crisis Centre and get online support on the Rape Crisis website.

Some Rape Crisis centres provide support for men and boys. You can find out more about support for men and boys on the Rape Crisis website.

Reporting abuse to the police 

You can phone the police on 101. They’ll put you in touch with a specialist team that deals with child abuse offences committed in the past.

There is no time limit to report the abuse but, if it happened a long time ago, it might be difficult for the police to gather evidence against the alleged abuser. 

You can download a factsheet on how to report to the police on the NAPAC website.

Checking an organisation’s records

You can ask any organisation or local council to show you the information they have about you. This is called ‘making a subject access request’.

You can find out more about making a subject access request on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website.

If the records are wrong

You can ask the organisation to correct the record if it:

  • says something is true, but it's wrong or misleading

  • includes an opinion based on information which is incorrect or misleading

To get a record corrected, write an email or letter to the organisation saying why you think it’s wrong. You should be able to find the organisation’s contact details on their website.

If they refuse to correct it, you can complain to the ICO.

Claiming compensation for child abuse

If you were abused as a child, you might be able to get financial compensation. 

There are 3 ways you can get compensation:

  • by making a legal claim against your abuser in the Civil Court, which is known as ‘suing’ them

  • through the Criminal Court if your abuser is convicted

  • from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

Suing your abuser

One way to try and get compensation would be to sue the person who has abused you -  for example, you might sue them if  they assaulted you or put you in fear of violence. 

You could also sue an organisation like the local council if they failed in their duty of care towards you. An example would be if you told the child protection team you were being abused but they didn’t take you seriously and wouldn’t investigate.

You should get legal advice if you’re thinking about suing someone. You’re unlikely to get legal aid, but you might be able to get a solicitor on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This means you won’t have to pay your solicitor’s fee if you lose. 

You have the right to be anonymous if you sue your abuser. This means the media can’t use your name or identify you.

You might have to go to court to give evidence. You usually have to do this in public, but you can ask the court to hear your case in private. A solicitor can help you with this.

Getting compensation through the court if your abuser is convicted

If your abuser is convicted for what they did to you, the court might order them to pay you compensation. Let the police involved with your case know if you want the court to consider doing this. 

You’ll need to tell the police about:

  • how the abuse has affected you, for example any pain or suffering you’ve experienced

  • the things you’ve needed to do because of what your abuser did, for example taking time off work or paying for counselling

The police can ask the Crown Prosecution Service to tell the court you want compensation.

If the court decide your abuser has to pay you compensation, your abuser only has to pay what they can afford. The court will make sure they make the payments.

The court won’t usually order someone to pay compensation if they’re being sent to prison.

Getting compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

If you’ve been physically injured or your mental health has been badly affected because of a violent criminal act, you might be able to claim compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). 

This would apply if, for example, you were physically or sexually assaulted. 

The abuser doesn’t have to have been charged with the crime or convicted.

You should usually make an application within 2 years of the incident. You can still apply after 2 years if you’re making a claim for abuse you experienced as a child.

You can claim compensation if you were the victim of a violent crime on GOV.UK.

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Page last reviewed on 01 July 2021