Poor Attempts at CompensationKoffels
Poor Attempts at Compensation for Child Sex Abuse are Endemic: There is a better alternative to inadequate Institutionally Based Redress Schemes
Al Jazeera reported on 2 June 2020 that “as a result of a unanimous decision taken by the German Bishops’ Conference” victims of child sex abuse and violence in the Catholic Diocese of Augsburg will receive up to €75,000 each.
This very modest attempt at compensation aimed, in the Church’s assessment, “to put the people concerned at ease”, comes 10 years after Der Spiegel reported on 29 March 2010 that nearly 100 clerics were suspected of engaging in the sexual abuse of children since 1995.
The Church’s decision to compensate victims comes after the leak in September 2019 of a report commissioned by the Catholic Church which showed that “3,677 children in Germany, mostly boys under age 13, were sexually abused by Catholic clergy members over the past seven decades. About 1,670 church workers, or 4.4% of the clergy, had been involved in the abuse” [Deutsche Welle –https://www.dw.com/en/german-catholic-priests-abused-thousands-of-children/a-45459734]
Given that the report was not fully independent of the Church, and its terms of reference confined in some respects, the extent of the abuse was likely to have been significantly underestimated.
The modest sums proposed to be paid to victims of child sex abuse in the Augsburg Diocese are similar in magnitude to those available in Australia under the National Redress Scheme set up in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. They represent the Church getting off all too lightly with turning a blind eye to decades of chronic and pervasive sexual abuse by using a ‘one size fits all’ approach and paying small sums to victims regardless of the harm caused. Such sums typically stand in stark contrast to the far larger amounts available to victims where proceedings for damages are commenced against the Church, school, institution or perpetrator responsible for their harm.
Damages for victims of institutional child sexual abuse and/or institutional violence are tailored amounts relevant to the impact of the abuse suffered by each victim. These amounts include pain and suffering, lost wages, requirements for treatment and, in rare cases, amounts for a need arising for domestic assistance. It is almost always preferable to obtain justice through a damages action as opposed to the Redress Scheme.