About Amy and Vicky

The Price of a Stolen Childhood

January 27, 2013

Last year, the New York Times Magazine published a groundbreaking feature article about Amy and her struggle to rebuild her life as a victim of child pornography. The story was over a year in the making. It’s a remarkable piece written by noted journalist Emily Bazelon and recently received honorable mention in the 2014 Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma. Judges praised The Price of a Stolen Childhood for “gracefully delivering on its promise to illustrate the emotional, legal and financial impact of a new source of trauma,” and for “showing the complexity of legal interventions and their unintended consequences for victims and survivors.”

The Price of a Stolen Childhood

The Price of a Stolen Childhood

The article appears here and was included in the Sunday, January 27, 2013 New York Times.


Amy’s Letter Supporting The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act

May 4, 2014

“I am writing today to give my support to the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014. It is very important that this law get passed as soon as possible.”

“The past eight years of my life have been filled with hope and horror. Life was pretty horrible when I realized that the pictures of my childhood sex abuse were on the Internet for anyone and everyone to see. Imagine the worst most humiliating moments of your life captured for everyone to see forever. Then imagine that as a child you didn’t even really know what was happening to you and you didn’t want it to happen but you couldn’t stop it. You were abused, raped, and hurt and this is something that other people want. They enjoy it. They can’t stop collecting it and asking for it and trading it with other people. And it’s you. It’s your life and your pain that they are enjoying. And it never stops and you are helpless to do anything ever to stop it. That’s horror.”

“There was also hope. Hope in finding someone who could help me like my parents and my lawyer. And hope in meeting Joy, my psychologist, who was the first person who really understood what I was going through. Then I met Cindy, my therapist, who also really helped me with all the twists and turns with what I was feeling when I tried to make sense of my life and what had happened to me as a child and what is happening to me on the Internet. I felt lots of hope when my lawyer started collecting restitution to help me pay my bills and my therapist and for a car to drive to therapy and to just try to create some kind of ‘normal’ life. Things were getting better and better.”

“Then we started having problems with the restitution law. Judges sometimes gave me just $100 and sometimes nothing at all. A few judges really got it, like when I was at the Fifth Circuit oral argument two years ago and the judges agreed that the child sex abuse images of me really do cause ongoing and long-term harm. The article by Emily Bazelon in the New York Times also really helped to tell my story so that people can understand what it’s like to live with child pornography every day of your life. I was really happy to discover recently that her article received honorable mention in a contest recognizing excellence in journalism.”

“After a long time and a lot of court hearings all over the country, my case was finally at the Supreme Court. I couldn’t believe how long and how far my case and my story had gone until I was sitting there in the Supreme Court surrounded by so many of the people who have supported me and helped me during these years. To hear the justices discussing my case and my life was really overwhelming and gave me lots of hope not just for myself but for other victims like Vicky who I met for the first time right before the oral argument. I know there were other victims there too who are too afraid to speak out and too afraid to even think about what happened to them and what is happening to them online, on the Internet, because of their childhood sexual abuse and child pornography. I hoped that at last the very important people on the Supreme Court would decide that not just me, but all the victims like me—who were so young when all these horrible things happened to us—could get the restitution we need to try and live a life like everyone else.”

“All the justices were respectful and it was obvious that they had thought a lot about the issues. When the oral argument finished I was really hopeful that we would win the case. It felt good doing something this significant to make a difference in the world. It was a great feeling after so many years of just trying to get it right.”

“My hope turned to horror when the Court decided two weeks ago that restitution was impossible for victims like me and Vicky and so many others. I couldn’t believe that something which is called mandatory restitution (twice) was so hard to figure out. It just seemed like something somewhere was missing. Why, if so many people are committing this serious crime, why are the victims of that crime, who are and were children after all, left out? The Court’s decision was even worse than getting no restitution at all. It was sort of like getting negative restitution. It was a horrible day.”

“This is why I am so happy, and hopeful, that Congress can fix this problem once and for all. Maybe if they put mandatory in the law for a third time judges will get it that restitution really really really must be given to victims! After all this time and all the hearings and appeals and the Supreme Court, I definitely agree that restitution needs improvement and hopefully this bill, the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Restitution Improvement Act of 2014, can finally make restitution happen for all victims of this horrible crime.”

“Thank you for supporting this law and working so hard to give victims the hope and help they need to overcome the nightmares and memories that most others will never know. Thank you Senator Hatch and Senator Schumer for making my hope real!”


Disappointment at the Supreme Court – Amy’s Reaction

April 23, 2014

“I am surprised and confused by the Court’s decision today. I really don’t understand where this leaves me and other victims who now have to live with trying to get restitution probably for the rest of our lives. The Supreme Court said we should keep going back to the district courts over and over again but that’s what I have been doing for almost six years now. It’s crazy that people keep committing this crime year after year and now victims like me have to keep reliving it year after year. I’m not sure how this decision helps anyone to really know if, when, and how restitution will ever be paid to kids and other victims of this endless crime. I see that the Court said I should get full restitution “someday,” I just wonder when that day will be and how long I and Vicky and other victims will have to wait for justice.”


Vicky’s Letter Supporting The Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act

May 3, 2014

“I am the subject of the “Vicky” series of child pornography images, which I have been told by law enforcement agents is one of the most widely traded in the world. I am writing to you under pseudonym, and through my attorney, because I have been stalked by pedophiles in the recent past and I am concerned that disclosure of my legal name and address could lead to further stalking.”

“I appreciate the Supreme Court’s recent recognition in the Paroline decision of the pain and loss suffered by victims and the need for mandatory restitution. This upholds both the victim’s need for compensation and helping the offender realize they have hurt an actual person. The difficult part of this decision is the immense amount of time and work investment that will be required by the victim to collect restitution, without the guarantee that they will ever collect the full amount to be made whole again. With each case in which the victim seeks restitution from someone who has possessed and/or distributed their images, there is an emotional cost just for being involved in the case. It brings up the painful reality of the victim’s situation of never-ending humiliation and puts because it leaves victims like Amy and myself with the choice between not pursuing restitution (which would not provide us with the help we desperately need to heal) or continuing to have this painful part of our lives in our face on a regular basis for several more years, if not decades. Without any guidelines as to how the district courts will calculate restitution from each offender, I worry that the emotional toll may not be adequately compensated for in the end. I sincerely hope that Congress will take the time to create some guidelines for restitution for victims of child pornography possession and distribution that will protect the victim and enable them to receive full compensation.”

“I would be happy to talk with you about this at some later time. I am currently very pregnant and due to deliver my first child in two weeks. I respectfully ask that you support this legislation and do all that you can to see that it becomes law.”


Supreme Court Decision – Vicky’s Reaction

April 27, 2014

“I appreciate the Supreme Court’s recognition of the pain and loss suffered by victims and the need for mandatory restitution. This upholds both the victim’s need for compensation and helping the offender realize they have hurt an actual person. The difficult part of this decision is the immense amount of time and work investment that will be required by the victim to collect restitution, without the guarantee that they will ever collect the full amount to be made whole again. With each case in which the victim seeks restitution from someone who has possessed and/or distributed their images, there is an emotional cost just for being involved in the case. It brings up the painful reality of the victim’s situation of never-ending humilation and puts it right in the victim’s face once again.

This decision places on the victim the huge burden of several years of litigation without any promise of closure. This is a dismal prospect because it leaves victims like Amy and myself with the choice between not pursuing restitution (which would not provide us with the help we desperately need to heal) or continuing to have this painful part of our lives in our face on a regular basis for several more years, if not decades. Without any guidelines as to how the district courts will calculate restitution from each offender, I worry that the emotional toll may not be adequately compensated for in the end. I sincerely hope that Congress will take the time to create some guidelines for restitution for victims of child pornography possession and distribution that will protect the victim and enable them to receive full compensation.


Law & Order: SVU

April 2, 2014

In April, NBC’s Law & Order: SVU aired an episode about Amy’s and Vicky’s effort to obtain restitution for victims of child pornography called Downloaded Child. This clip, Restitution at Last, discusses the Violence Against Women Act and joint and several liability.

Watch the full Law & Order SVU episode, Downloaded Child, here online. They even used the Twitter hashtag #StolenChildhood which was the title of Emily Bazelon’s New York Times Magazine story last year.