Compensation secured for sexual assault victim against Shropshire women's refuge

Our client secured compensation against Shropshire Domestic Violence for failing in their duty of care, where a male staff member sexually assaulted vulnerable women in a women’s refuge.

08 March 2023

Woman looking out of window

Our client and the circumstances

Our client, whose name has been anonymised, sought support at a domestic violence refuge in Shropshire. She was seeking to escape domestic abuse by a previous partner.

However, while living in the refuge she was targeted by housing officer and handyman, Stephen Russell, who used his position to sexually abuse vulnerable women at the refuge.

At the time of the assaults, our client was young and vulnerable, having just left a violent relationship. She had hoped the refuge would provide safe haven.

Russell was employed by the refuge in dual roles - as a handyman, which gave him access to the private rooms of female service users; and as a housing officer, which gave him access to their confidential records

Russell abused the power of his position by sexually assaulting the women who were living in the refuge. Russell manipulated our client into silence by alluding to his connections in social services; claiming he could influence them to affect custody of her children. He also threatened to expose her location to her previous abusive partner.

Russell was convicted of his sickening crimes in 2019, pleading guilty to committing serious sexual offences against our client, and another woman.

Through Slater and Gordon our client pursued legal action against the owners of the refuge.

How Slater and Gordon helped and the outcome

Our client got in touch with Slater and Gordon’s specialist abuse lawyers, where we brought a civil claim on her behalf against the owners of the refuge.

Following disclosure of medical evidence which highlighted the devastating impact of the sexual assaults on our client, we secured a substantial out of court settlement.

The settlement will enable our client to secure vital treatment to help her work through the devastating abuse, and move forward, having bravely spoken out against Russell’s abusive behaviour and the refuge’s negligence.

Our client was not the only woman in the refuge to be abused. This case highlights the need to safeguard vulnerable women in female-only spaces and services.

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