Statements in Support of the AVAA
Amy’s Letter Supporting the Amy Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017
November 16, 2017
Dear Senator Hatch,
When I wrote a letter over three and a half years ago supporting the Amy and Vicky Act, I thought the law would be enacted in a heartbeat. That was in 2014 right after the Supreme Court decided my case in Paroline v. United States. Of course, that case really wasn’t just about me, but it was about me and all the other victims of child pornography out there like Vicky and Andy.
Since 2014 I have met a few more victims, actually in Washington DC when we were asking Congress to pass the AVA. I went in 2015 right after the AVA was introduced for the second time and the Senate passed it 98-0. I was at the hearing in the House of Representative with several other victims when Chairman Goodlatte said that “Congress has a responsibility to ensure that those who harm children in this vile way are held accountable for the suffering of their victims.” I agree and that is why I am supporting the Amy Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017.
This is a good bill. I like it that victims of child pornography production get someone to help them in court, a GAL who is an attorney. I remember when everyone found out what happened to me for the very first time. I was just a child and I really didn’t know what was going on. The police and the prosecutors were all really nice and they did their job prosecuting the person who hurt me. But I had so many questions and it was confusing and stressful. I didn’t really have anyone but my parents, and they were overwhelmed by everything too.
I know that after I met my lawyer many years later that things started making sense for me. He helped me understand things like restitution and why there were so many cases involving my images all around the country. I began to take control of things with his help and we actually filed the first restitution request ever for a victim of child pornography possession and distribution. I was even there in the courtroom for that very first case. I know that I would never ever have gone there without his help and without him being there with me.
After I went to court and heard the judge say “the sentencing in this case is going to be about the victim,” I finally began to feel that I had some power. I don’t think the judge would have ever said that if I hadn’t been there. And I know I couldn’t have gone there without someone on my side.
This is especially true for victims who were exploited by someone in their family like their dad or a relative. Those kids really need help, they really need an advocate and someone who will make the judge say “this case is about the victim.” This is one of the great parts of this new Amy Vicky and Andy Act!
I just had a baby yesterday and I’m now in my late twenties. The things that happened to me when I was a child seem like a long time ago. My dad died a few years ago and life goes on. But for me I can never really totally forget everything. I know that my pictures are still out there forever haunting me not letting me ever forget. I think what bothers me the most is that my child sex abuse images are being used to groom and entice other kids to be abused. That hurts me so much. I feel so helpless for those kids, those future victims on and on forever.
I know that not even the United States Congress can make that go away. You can’t erase my pictures and you can’t change the terrible things that happened to me and are happening today, right now, to other kids like Vicky and Andy and so many others.
What Congress can do is pass this bill. This is the THIRD TIME and you know they say the third time is a charm. But they also say three strikes and you’re out. Let’s make this one a charm and not an out.
Thank you Senator Hatch for not giving up. There are lots of important things going on in our country right now and I know that a bunch of abused kids aren’t always at the top of the list. But you haven’t given up and neither have we.
Vicky’s Letter Supporting the Amy Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017
November 16, 2017
Thank you for your tireless work on this very important Bill. It is so important to recognize and provide for the care and treatment of victims of child pornography who suffer daily and on into the future due to the crimes which keep being committed.
Reaching out to ask for help is very difficult. It is important to recognize that around every victim are family members who suffer and whose lives are permanently altered too—spouses, partners and children— who feel the effects of these crimes on their loved ones. This Bill is an important and needed step in the process of healing and making those who have harmed so many accountable for the damage done. We are thankful for the efforts of all who have brought this to this point and urge Congress to go the last mile to make this happen.
Vicky and her husband
Andy’s Letter Supporting the Amy Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017
November 16, 2017
Dear Senator Hatch,
I’m a young man who has lived my entire life in Utah. When I was just a child, I was victimized by the production of child pornography. To help protect my privacy, you can call me “Andy.” When I read about Amy and Vicky and their advocacy on this important issue, I wanted to get involved too. This is not easy for me because this is the first time I have spoken out publicly about what happened to me.
Sadly, my story is the same messed up story of other children around the country. I was sexually abused for years by a volunteer mentor starting when I was just 7 years old. This mentor not only messed with my body, but he messed with my mind. He became a friend to my family and someone we all liked and trusted. All that time though he was sexually abusing me, taking pictures and videos which he always said were just for him, but which he was sharing on the Internet. I never told my mom because I didn’t want to hurt her, but in the process he destroyed me.
He’s destroying me still day by day because I know that all the time, my pictures and videos are out there everywhere forever. Yeah, some days are better than others, but most of the time I’m angry, frustrated, and feeling helpless. That is why I fight, go to jail, get out of jail, do stuff I know is bad for me, and try anything to make the pain go away. With the Internet though, you know, nothing ever goes away.
A few years ago, I went to see one of the country’s leading experts on child sexual abuse, Dr. David Corwin right here at the University of Utah. Although he has lots of experience with these kinds of cases, he told me my case really stood out. When he reviewed just a few of the many pictures of my abuse, he told me that they were the most disturbing things that he had ever seen. Yes, that was and IS my life, sometimes every day for weeks, months, years. I can’t escape. I can never escape.
Victims like me need as much help as we can get and this bill is going to make a big difference in our lives. I am one of the lucky ones because I have the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic fighting for me in court every day. There are lots of cases involving my images everywhere all over the country. But the lawyers at the Clinic are tireless and the restitution they get for me helps a lot.
This bill is good because it will make their work easier by telling the court that victims deserve at least $3,000 in every single case from every single defendant. And if the court doesn’t think that’s enough, it can make the defendant pay more.
I also think it’s important for victims like me to have some control over the pictures and videos of our abuse. We should have at least as much rights to that terrible stuff as the criminals! When Dr. Corwin saw those pictures, he knew what happened to me. Like they say, a picture is worth 1000 words. Having someone on my side who knows what happened to me and can tell others is powerful. It’s not just me, in my head, trying to figure things out. It’s someone who knows how to tell my story and who can hold the defendants accountable for their actions. Someone who can tell the judges, “look this is what happened to Andy, and it’s worse than you thought, and it’s something you probably don’t ever want to see, but here it is, this is how he suffered, and this is why he is still suffering today.”
My lawyers and advocates told me that you have been fighting for me and victims like me for a long long time. Thank you Senator Hatch. I’m proud to be from Utah. I’m lucky, and so is Vicky and Amy and so many other mostly silent victims out there, to have you on our side and everyone else in the Senate. Just knowing that so many important people think that we matter, that the terrible things that happened to us as kids are being considered all the way up in the Congress of the United States. Wow! That’s a big deal and helps me live another day. Life isn’t always easy, but this bill is going to make a difference to me and lots of other kids who are suffering. If we can all agree on something, it’s that victims deserve justice. Thank you for helping us get it.
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 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.