For most, the experience of being taken into care was extremely disempowering, and this was made worse by experiences of abuse. As a result, they could not trust the people or institutions responsible for their care. Survivors see the redress process as continuing this power and control imbalance.
Survivors typically have few, if any, resources and are dealing with the ongoing traumatic effects of their abuse, lack of experience necessary to work through legalistic and bureaucratic processes, and have life experiences that tell them they will be marginalised and dismissed. Many faced redress processes without a lawyer or other advocate. For faith-based survivors, family and community pressures can make these issues worse.
Several survivors told us they felt pressured to accept the offers made, rather than risk further delays and have a worse result in the end. This inequality makes funding for legal assistance. One survivor told us that “there is no way I could have gone through this process without a lawyer ... How was I ever going to stand up to the Catholic Church on my own against all their power and money?” Georgina Sammons told us, “I didn’t want to accept but I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was told that if I didn’t there was a good chance I would come out with nothing for me and Alva. It had already been nine years. Reluctantly, I accepted the offer.”
Others also said they accepted the money because they were in debt or needed the money for other reasons. Darrin Timpson told us: “It was made clear that it was take this or get nothing. I had spent most of my adult life in prison and I owned very little. I also had a few debts.”
Legal representation does not in itself rebalance the scales. Judith Perrott told us that the power of the State was overwhelming for her and affected her ability to seek redress. While she was seeking redress, she had not known she could seek legal representation. Later she asked if she could sue the government, “the lawyer looked at me and said something along the lines of, ‘don’t be stupid, the government has more money than you’. I walked out crying.”
Next: Redress processes have caused further harm