Historical Abuse

Historical Abuse

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Civil Lawyers

What is Historical Abuse?

Historical abuse refers to any form of abuse that occurred in the past, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.

Institutional settings such as schools, orphanages, or foster homes, or within families.

individuals of any gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic background

  • Physical Abuse: acts of violence such as hitting, beating, and other forms of physical aggression.
  • Emotional abuse: includes verbal abuse, bullying, manipulation, and other forms of psychological harm.
  • Sexual abuse: any unwanted sexual contact or attention, including rape, molestation, and sexual harassment.
  • Financial abuse: theft, fraud, and coercion in relation to financial assets.

Challenges in Addressing Historical Abuse

One of the main challenges in addressing historical abuse is that it often goes unreported for many years, and in many cases, the abuser is deceased or unable to be held accountable. Additionally, the legal system can be complex and difficult to navigate for survivors, who may also be dealing with trauma and emotional distress.

Suing an institution for historic child abuse

If you have been subject to abuse, such as sexual abuse, while in the care of an institution as a child, you may have a claim for historic child abuse, including historic child sexual abuse

We understand that no amount of financial compensation can ever make up for  abuse suffered at the hands of people who you were meant to trust. However, monetary compensation can assist you in your path of recovery.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors have represented witnesses in every Royal Commission over the past decade including the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.

The representation includes the preparation of statements through to putting forward of testimonial accounts by clients, and cross-examining adverse witnesses. 

Peter O’Brien has represented a number of witnesses who gave evidence about sexual abuse by clergy within the Catholic Church during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mr O’Brien artfully cross-examined many key witnesses including Catholic Cardinal George Pell.

Institutional Child Abuse Case Studies

Here are just two examples of the type of institutional child abuse cases that we have completed. 

Martin: Historic Child Sexual Abuse by Church

Martin* was a victim of historical sexual abuse at a residential boy’s home run by a church. The perpetrator is a notorious pedophile convicted of numerous offences against young boys.

During his time Martin experienced multiple physical, sexual and psychological abuse. This resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Anxiety. Martin continues to have nightmares, flashbacks and intrusive memories of the abuse he endured.

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors assisted Martin in suing the perpetrator and the church. He received a very large settlement.

Dylan: Army Apprentice School junior sexually abused

Dylan was a junior apprentice in the Australian Army during the 1970s. He was only 16 years of age at the time.

During Dylan’s time with the army, he suffered numerous instances of child sexual abuse. The perpetrators were senior apprentices, staff and officers who operated the Army Apprentice School. He suffered from child physical abuse at the hands of his senior colleagues on many occasions. For instance, senior recruits held him down on his bed and a large senior recruit dived onto him, damaging his back.

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors commenced civil action on his behalf. We filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Australia for assault and battery. We settled via mediation and Dylan got significant compensation.

Other case studies can be found below:

Civil Claims For Sexual Assault, Battery and Child Sexual Abuse

View Cases

How We Can Help

If you or someone you know has experienced historical abuse, it is important to seek legal advice and support. Our law firm has experience in handling such cases and we can help guide you through the legal process, ensure that you understand your rights, and provide you with the support you need to seek justice.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today, our lawyers are here to help and support you. Our expert lawyers can assist you in receiving the compensation that you deserve.

Our lawyers have experience representing clients for claims against religious and other institutions.  This includes bodies such as:

  • the Catholic Church,
  • Commonwealth and State-run institutions including juvenile justice facilities and private bodies including private schools.

We are able to offer no-win, no-fee claims for these bodies in certain circumstances. This means that you don’t have to pay legal costs until you receive compensation.

Our lawyers are trauma-informed, so they know how to deal with those who have experienced this sort of abuse as a child.


O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors
p: 02 9261 4281
a: Level 4, 219-223 Castlereagh St,
Sydney NSW 2000

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