A 49-year-old woman has been awarded £22,000 damages from a Government compensation scheme – finally bringing official recognition of the sexual abuse she suffered when at a children’s home more than 30 years ago.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was a resident at the notorious Beechwood children’s home in Mapperley, Nottingham, in the 1980s, when aged 13 and 14.
The home was subject to a major police investigation in 2011 and then a subsequent Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in Nottingham care facilities.
That investigation last year concluded that Beechwood had been “riddled with abuse” from the late 1960s to the late 1980s.
As part of the wider investigation into care under ‘Operation Equinox’, more than 900 allegations of historic sexual or physical abuse were made across more than 20 children’s homes and other institutions in Nottinghamshire between the 1950s and 2000.
More than 340 people came forward to say they had been abused and more than 270 suspects were identified.
Both male and female former residents described being routinely sexually abused by members of staff and being too afraid to report it, the inquiry was told.
A number of former staff members were handed lengthy jail terms for crimes including rape, indecent assault, child cruelty and indecency with children.
Damages awarded through Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) has now awarded the former resident of Beechwood children’s home £22,000 damages, after her case was made by Hudgell Solicitors.
The woman had been advised to seek legal help by the police after disclosures of sexual abuse by victims during police investigations, which led to a number of criminal convictions.
“I wasn’t going to pursue compensation for what happened to me at Beechwood, as it somehow felt like dirty money to me, but my family and children, who have seen me suffer so much, urged me to do it,” said the woman, who now lives in London.
“My life has been hard. It has been so hard to live with what happened in that home, hard to live with what I always knew would still be happening to other children after I left at the age of 15, and so hard to try and put out of my mind. It has been there every day.
“I was made to take part in peep shows and I was prostituted and regularly raped as part of a sex ring. As a child you can’t escape that sort of stuff and you are living in fear. You do what you are made to do and men would just routinely come in and abuse all the girls.
“I’d had troubles with being abused in my family life before going to the home.
“The partner of my aunty would abuse me regularly, and that is why I went off the rails and misbehaved and missed school. That is why I went into the children’s home. I thought I’d be protected there. Instead I was just walking into another nightmare.”
The woman says she is proud of how she has managed in life despite all she went through.
“I’ve struggled all my life but I am proud that I have held down jobs, from factories and canteens, and I have raised three children who have all turned out into good people. I’ve never been in trouble with the law myself either.
“I moved to London when I was 23 and my daughter was two-years-old as I had to get away from Nottingham. It was the best thing I ever did for me and my children, as I linked Nottingham with everything bad that had happened. I didn’t want my kids there. I worried something would happen to them too given all that had been allowed to go on in the city.
“When my mother died in 2008 I really struggled as I found I had nobody to talk to. I struggled again and most days I would think about what happened to me and what happened to many other children who were at those homes after me. I wondered how many more had suffered.”
When police knocked on her door in 2014 following the investigations, she says it ‘changed her life’ for the better.
“It was amazing when the police knocked on my door, my life changed for the better. Finally these horrific people were being held to account and the suffering I and so many others had been through was being recognised,” she said.
“That is how it feels now, having come to the end of the compensation claim. It is further recognition of what I suffered. That seems very important. It feels like the end to it in a way.
“The money isn’t important but it has been helpful. I’ve never had savings. In fact I had some debts that I have paid off. I have been able to give my children some money, and I am putting money towards my parents’ gravestone.”
Solicitors say more victims could still seek compensation
Stacey Flegg, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented the woman in her claim to the CICA, and says her case highlights the support available to those who have suffered, but not directly seen their attackers convicted relating to crimes against them.
“In our client’s case her abusers had not been directly named or faced criminal charges relating specifically to offences against her, but following the investigations and inquiry into what happened at the care home, there was clearly enough evidence for the CICA to accept she had been a victim of abuse and offer compensation.
“The claim included being a victim of sexual abuse for more than three years including touching under and over clothing and penetration.
“Given the huge scale of the offending and abuse which has been highlighted in the investigations into care facilities, it is perhaps likely that there are still many people like our client who have not come forward to make claims.
“Our client said she felt it was ‘dirty money’ when it was first suggested to her, but it is not at all. It is there to support people who have been through the very worst of times through no fault of their own.
“Such crimes can have a devastating impact on lives, and very substantial compensation awards can quite rightly be awarded, especially in cases where it is clear there has been long term, serious psychological impact.”
Last year Nottingham City Council apologised to the victims of abuse, admitting it had “failed” children entrusted to its care.