Child pornography leaves in its wake a trail of tragedy and shattered life. While public policy may never eradicate this evil altogether, it can at least alleviate the suffering of its victims. That’s exactly what Senator Hatch has sought to do with a groundbreaking new proposal that will provide justice for victims of child pornography.
In an effort to update our laws for the digital age, Senator Hatch has introduced the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act, named after the victims of some of the most widely circulated child pornography series in the world. “Amy” brought her case to the Supreme Court and “Andy,” who is aided by the tireless advocates at the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic, is a Utah resident.
Under this legislation-which already has nearly two dozen bipartisan co-sponsors-victims will be able to choose which form of assistance will help them most. For those seeking restitution from defendants, this bill revises the criteria and options for judges to calculate losses and impose restitution. Victims may, as an alternative, apply for a one-time payment from the existing Crime Victims Fund maintained by the Department of Justice.
This editorial appeared in the Provo, Utah Daily Herald. It was co-authored by Senator Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT), the senior member and a former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and David Corwin, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine and President-Elect of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an Executive Business Meeting to consider the AVAA. The bill was presented to the Committee and in keeping with normal Committee practice, held over for a second reading at the next executive business meeting which could occur as early as next week.
Today, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)—the senior member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee—alongside Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), introduced the bipartisan Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017 S. 2152, named for the victims in some of the world’s most widely circulated child pornography series.
This crucial legislation improves the process for seeking restitution from child pornography defendants. The bill also offers victims a monetary assistance alternative from the Crime Victim Fund, requires the appointment of a guardian to act on behalf of the victim in court, and allows victims access to the defendants’ images depicting them.
The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) is the leading national organization supporting professionals who serve children and families affected by child maltreatment and violence, including child sex abuse and child pornography. As a multidisciplinary group of professionals, APSAC achieves its mission in a number of ways, most notably through expert training and educational activities, policy leadership and collaboration, and consultation that emphasizes theoretically sound, evidence-based principles. With more than 26 years of existence and a central role in the development of professional guidelines addressing child abuse and neglect, APSAC is well-qualified to advance understanding on the current nature of child pornography and the harm it causes its victims.
On October 18, 2013, in conjunction with its amicus brief in Paroline v. Amy Unknown, APSAC issued this statement on the harm to child pornography victims with the goal of assisting the Supreme Court, professionals, policymakers, and the public about most recent science documenting the nature and harm done to victims by the market in child pornography and all of its participants.
Even as efforts to fight online child sex abuse material and compensate victims remains stalled in the United States House of Representatives, efforts abroad continue unabated.
Last week, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection introduced a new tool to combat the growing proliferation of child sexual abuse material on the Internet. Dubbed ‘Project Arachnid,' this automated crawler will help reduce the online availability of child sexual abuse material and break the cycle of abuse.
The need for Project Arachnid is based on Cybertip.ca witnessing the growing proliferation of child sexual abuse material, and was further validated by the Canadian Centre’s International Survivors’ Survey. This survey was developed to better understand the unique challenges faced by survivors whose abuse as a child was recorded and, in many instances, distributed online. To date, 128 survivors from around the world have contributed valuable information about their experiences.
James R. Marsh was chosen from hundreds of submissions to present the law review article he wrote with Professor Paul G. Cassell, Full Restitution for Child Pornography Victims: The Supreme Court's Paroline Decision and the Need for a Congressional Response.
Full Restitution for Child Pornography Victims: The Supreme Court’s Paroline Decision and the Need for a Congressional Response
How to provide restitution to victims of child pornography crimes has recently proven to be a challenge for courts across the country. The difficulty stems from the fact that child pornography is often widely disseminated to countless thousands of criminals who have a prurient interest in such materials.
While the victims of child pornography crimes often have significant financial losses from the crimes (such as the need for long term psychological counseling), it is very difficult to assign a particular fraction of a victim’s losses to any particular criminal defendant.
Last spring, the United States Supreme Court gave its answer to how to resolve this issue with its ruling in Paroline v. United States. Interpreting a restitution statute enacted by Congress, the Court concluded that in a child pornography prosecution, a restitution award from a particular defendant is only appropriate to the extent that it reflects “the defendant’s relative role in the causal process that underlies the victim’s general losses.” Exactly what this holding means is not immediately clear, and lower courts are currently struggling to interpret it.
This article, which was recently published in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, questions the Court’s Paroline holding, particularly its failure to offer any real guidance on exactly what amount of restitution district court judges should award in child pornography cases. Members of Congress, too, have doubted the wisdom of the decision, introducing a bill (the Amy and Vicky Act) with strong bi-partisan sponsorship that would essentially overrule Paroline.
One year ago today, the United States Senate, in one of its first acts of the 114th Congress, passed the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2015, on a vote of 98–0.
As Senator Grassley explained, "the choice is between the convicted child pornography offender being held responsible for the full loss and the innocent victim not receiving full compensation."
Unfortunately, the Senate's bold vision for child pornography victims—led by Senators Hatch and Schumer—has all but died in the House Judiciary Committee which has failed to act for almost a year.
During that time federal courts have grown increasingly frustrated, while child victims have been denied meaningful compensation for the lifelong injuries they suffer. Child pornography criminals, who have repeatedly expressed fear and dismay about paying restitution, are newly emboldened in attacking every aspect of the current restitution law.