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Abuse FAQs

Read some commonly asked questions about abuse claims and compensation

Dealing with the aftermath of abuse can be a traumatic and confusing time. Whether it was something you experienced first-hand or are aware of happening to a loved one, you may have many unanswered questions and be unsure what you can do next.

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To try and make things clearer, we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions you might have about making an abuse claim for compensation. However, you may still want to discuss any specific questions about your case compassionately and confidentially.

Get in touch with our specialist team of abuse solicitors if you have any further questions or want to start a claim.

Top FAQs about an abuse claim

Seeking legal advice about the abuse you suffered can be an essential step towards helping you right the wrong that happened to you. Abuse claims are a specialist area of law, and you should approach lawyers who are experts in bringing cases on behalf of survivors.

When you speak to a lawyer, you may be asked to provide details of:

  • The kind of abuse you were subjected to – such as sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
  • When and where the abuse you suffered happened.
  • Whether you have spoken to anyone about the abuse in the past.

The lawyer might want to see any paperwork, documents or photographs that you have that are relevant to the abuse.

Yes, you can claim compensation for sexual abuse, whether it was recent or in the past. The nature of a claim for sexual abuse will depend on where it took place, when and the abuser’s relationship to the victim.

Compensation may be secured to provide some level of justice. While it can never take back the abuse, it can provide compensation for any physical and emotional injuries, rehab and therapy costs, financial losses and more related to the abuse.

You can get specialist support from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) when you’re ready. They can help and advise you. Then when you’re ready you can start a child abuse claim with Leigh Day.

The process is similar to claiming compensation for any type of abuse. One of our specialist child abuse team will listen to your case with compassion and confidentiality, advise on whether you have a claim and next steps to take. Depending on this, there are three main ways you could secure compensation:

  • Bringing a legal claim against your abuser in the Civil Court – suing your abuser or those responsible.
  • Claiming via the Criminal Court if your abuser is convicted.
  • Using the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

It’s common not to speak about the abuse you suffered, including for many years. Abuse involves a breach of trust, and you may find it difficult to trust someone enough to tell them what happened to you.

A specialist abuse lawyer will be experienced in helping clients who have difficulties talking about the abuse they suffered. Your lawyer will confidently and compassionately explain the information they need to provide you with legal advice. They’ll listen to your story in a patient and sensitive manner.

You may find it helpful to write down what you want to say before speaking to a lawyer or someone else about the abuse.

If you feel able to, it can be a good idea to report the abuse you suffered to the police. The police may already be aware of your abuser and/or other victims, and only the police can conduct a criminal investigation into what happened to you.

To report the abuse you suffered to the police, you can:

  • Go into a police station
  • Calling 101
  • Report it on your local police force’s website.

If you prefer to speak to a male or female officer, explain this when you first contact the police. Depending on the police force, you might talk to an officer from a dedicated sexual offences investigation team, a criminal investigation department (CID), or a child protection team.

The police will ask you for some basic information and take a ‘first account’ from you. You can do this:

  • Over the telephone
  • In your home
  • At your local police station.

After this, you may be asked to give a more detailed account to the police. This could be by providing a written statement or a video interview. You can ask the police for a copy of the statement you made.

The police should listen to you and take your report seriously. Not every report of abuse to the police will result in a criminal trial. If a case doesn’t proceed to a criminal court, the police should explain the reasons for this to you.

You may still be able to take a civil claim for the abuse you suffered, even if you have never reported it to the police.

It is possible to seek redress for non-recent abuse that happened many years ago. Time limits do apply to abuse claims, but your lawyer may be able to argue that your case should be able to proceed in any event. At Leigh Day, we have successfully settled many claims for clients who were abused decades ago.

If you’re thinking about making a claim for abuse that happened to you as a child, then you should seek specialist legal advice as soon as you feel able to do so.

In some circumstances, you can claim directly against the person who subjected you to abuse. This may depend on whether the abuser has enough financial assets to pay you compensation.

Your lawyer may advise you that it’s better to take your case against an institution connected to the person who abused you. This could be an organisation that failed to protect you.

Your case will be kept entirely confidential, and we won’t inform anyone about your claim without asking you first.

We are able to keep the legal proceedings anonymous to protect your identity if your case is issued at court. This means that you would be known in the court case as a set of letters, such as ‘XY’.

Your lawyer will discuss the options available to fund your abuse claim. It might be possible for you to obtain Legal Aid, or your lawyer may recommend a ‘no win no fee’ agreement. You may also be advised to take out a special insurance policy to protect you during your legal claim.

Discover more about paying for legal action.

We understand that you may be nervous about appearing in court, particularly if the person who abused you is still alive. In most cases we bring at Leigh Day, we can reach settlements with the opponent, so our clients don’t have to go to court.

If your case does proceed to a trial or a hearing, your lawyer will ensure that you are fully prepared and supported to appear in court.

Similar to other abuse claims, the amount of compensation you could obtain will depend on the specifics of your case. Factors that may affect how much you may secure include the:

  • Extent of your injuries
  • Effect of emotional trauma
  • Amount of time the abuse lasted
  • Place where the abuse occurred
  • Ongoing impact of the abuse

For these reasons we can’t provide an estimate of any child abuse compensation until reviewing your case.

The process to bring a claim for any kind of abuse can take anywhere from around three to 18 months or longer. It depends on the details of the case, including how recent the abuse took place, who the defendant is and the nature of the abuse.

For example, historical abuse cases may take longer if the individual or institution being sued is no longer around.


There are numerous reasons why victims and survivors may want to change their legal representation and these include:

  • Poor rapport with your lawyer
  • Not having a dedicated or lead lawyer that you can answer your queries
  • A lawyer who is continually unavailable
  • Concerns about the advice you are being provided with
  • Lack of frequent and proactive updates from your lawyer
  • Your lawyer does not explain things in a clear and concise manner
  • Loss of faith in your lawyer’s abilities
  • Case is progressing slowly and without explanation
  • Feeling pressured to settle your case for less than what you feel you are entitled to.

It is important if you have suffered sexual abuse as a child or as an adult that you choose a lawyer that specialises in abuse cases and only acts for victims and survivors of abuse.

A common concern by victims and survivors who want to move to a new lawyer is about the legal fees they have incurred with their old lawyer. The old lawyer can demand payment of these fees as per their no win no fee agreement.

Most law firms are reasonable and will agree to releasing their file subject to a “lien” over their costs because the alternate is retaining a client who is unhappy and has raised complaints. A “lien” means that the new lawyers promise that if/when the case is successful then they will look to the defendant to also pay the legal costs of the old lawyer.

The first step to take if you are looking to move to a new lawyer is to do your research and to speak to the potential new lawyer. They will be able to provide you with some initial advice as to whether they can take on your case and this will be on a no obligation basis.

If it is not possible to sort out the issues with your current lawyer then the next step would be for you to sign a form of authority requesting your file to be released to your new lawyer. This form would be drafted by your new lawyer and they would also look to sort out the funding position with your old lawyer as noted above and work on getting your file released to them.

You may find it difficult and emotional to speak about the abuse that you suffered. Your lawyer will always take the time to listen to you, but they are not a healthcare professional.

It is important that you have access to any help you need throughout your claim and after your case concludes. Explore a range of support for survivors of abuse.

There are various charities and services you can speak to for additional support regarding abuse, such as: