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Monday, 11 September 2017

Rotherham sexual exploitation survivor shocked at refusal of full compensation

Written by Dave Higgens

A survivor of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has described her shock at being turned down for full compensation for what she suffered because authorities deemed she had consented to the abuse.

Sammy Woodhouse, who waived her entitlement to lifelong anonymity so she can campaign against sexual exploitation, said the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA)'s letter concluded: "I am not satisfied that you were a victim of sexual activity to which you did not in fact consent."

This conclusion was reached despite Ms Woodhouse's abuser being convicted and sentenced to a substantial prison sentence.

Now the CICA says it is reviewing its guidance.

Ms Woodhouse told the BBC's Inside Out programme: "We keep hearing a lot of 'we've learnt lessons'.

"If any adult can privately think that it's a child's fault for being abused, beaten, raped, abducted, I think you're in the wrong job."

Another part of the letter said: "I'm not satisfied that your consent was falsely given as a result of being groomed by the offender."

Ms Woodhouse's solicitor, David Greenwood, told the programme how Sammy was raped from the age of 14 and made pregnant by her abuser.

He said he was "utterly shocked by the notion that decision-makers in a government organisation can consider that 14 and 15-year-old girls can consent to sex with an adult."

Mr Greenwood said Ms Woodhouse's case is not the only one of its type he has come across. He said he has seen "not high numbers, but significant numbers" of claims rejected on the grounds of consent.

A CICA spokeswoman said: "Child sexual abuse is abhorrent. Our guidelines are designed to make sure that controlling and abusive behaviour is taken into account when handling compensation applications.

"We want to be sure that we never get these decisions wrong. That's why we are reviewing our staff guidance to make sure that we identify every instance where grooming could be a factor.

"We are actively engaging victim support groups and relevant charities to make sure the revised guidance is as robust as it possibly can be."

Ms Woodhouse's story is featured on BBC One's Inside Out programme, which can be seen in Yorkshire & Lincolnshire on Monday at 7.30pm, and available generally on the BBC iPlayer.    
                        
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dave Higgens / PA Wire.