Section 2255

Legal Remedies for Victims

18 U.S.C. 2255, which is commonly known as “Masha’s Law,” provides federal civil remedies for victims of child pornography and online exploitation.

In 2018, Congress passed legislation drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] to require amateur athletics governing bodies like USA Gymnastics and other amateur sports organizations to report sex abuse allegations immediately to local or federal law enforcement or a child welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.

The bill also reformed 18 U.S.C. 2255 by significantly enhancing federal civil remedies for victims of child pornography. The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, S. 534, made the following critical changes:

  • Clarified that the $150,000 statutory damages clause is “liquidated damages”
  • Clarified that victims can elect “actual damages” OR $150,000 in “liquidated damages”
  • Added “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”
  • Extended the statute of limitations to 10 years after the victim turns age 18
  • Added 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
  • Added a provision providing for national venue
  • Added a provision providing for national service of process

These long-sought critical reforms will further 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 had been seeking these changes for almost 10 years.

The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act was supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Crime Victims Center, National Child Abuse Coalition, Child Welfare League of America, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Children’s Alliance, Childhelp, National Survivor Advocates Coalition, National Children’s Advocacy Center, Lauren’s Kids, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, Champion Women, CHILD USA, University of Utah Law Professor Paul Cassell, Child Sex Crime Victims’ Lawyer James R. Marsh, Crime Victims Expert Steve Twist and Former USA Gymnast Dominique Moceanu.

The bill was also supported by the National Governing Body Council of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Center for SafeSport and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

CongressionalRecord115th-S.534-Passage