Senate Passes Child Pornography Victims Enhanced Federal Civil Remedies Bill

The Senate today by unanimous consent passed legislation led by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to require amateur athletics governing bodies to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.

The bill further authorizes the U.S. Center for Safe Sport to ensure that aspiring Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent and non-conflicted entity for investigation and resolution, and to make sure that all national governing bodies follow the strictest standards for child abuse prevention and detection.

Most importantly for victims of child pornography, the bill reforms Masha’s Law found at 18 U.S.C. 2255 by significantly enhancing federal civil remedies for victims of child pornography. S. 534, The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, updates Masha’s Law as follows:

  • Clarifies that the $150,000 statutory damages clause is “liquidated damages”
  • Clarifies that victims can elect “actual damages” OR $150,000 in “liquidated damages”
  • Adds “other litigation costs reasonably incurred” to statutorily recoverable losses
  • Specifically allows courts to award punitive damages
  • Specifically allows courts to award “such other preliminary and equitable relief as the court determines to be appropriate”
  • Extends the statute of limitations to 10 years after the victim turns age 18
  • Adds a “reasonably discovered” provision to the statute of limitations – plaintiffs will have 10 years after they reasonably discover “the violation” or “injury” to file their action
  • Adds a provision providing for national venue
  • Adds a provision providing for national service of process

These long-sought critical reforms will empower victims of child pornography to hold offenders responsible not only in criminal court, but in federal civil court as well. Advocates for child pornography victims have been seeking these changes for over five years. We congratulate the Senate for their hard work on this bill and the House for passing a substantially similar bill in May. The bill is expected to move quickly to final passage and the president’s signature.

Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017

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