Senate Judiciary Committee Executive Hearing on the AVAA

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.

Senator Hatch delivered this compelling statement about this bi-partisan bill, S. 2152, which now has 17 co-sponsors: 10 Republican and 7 Democratic.

Statement of Senator Orrin G. Hatch Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for putting this bill on today’s agenda. And thank you to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for cosponsoring this bill.

Child pornography is a horrible crime that exacts unique and lasting damage on its victims. The abuse in creating the images is only the beginning. The trafficking in those images means that the abuse never really ends and most of the individuals contributing to that abuse will never be brought to justice. As the Supreme Court has put it: “Every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse.” Victims need help to put their lives back together and deal with this ongoing harm.

In 1994, Congress created a process for victims to seek restitution from defendants. That process worked reasonably well for more conventional crimes in which an identified defendant was responsible for measurable harm to a particular victim.

But a lot has changed since 1994, and the Internet has radically altered the nature of child pornography trafficking. In 2014, the Supreme Court made clear that the current restitution statute cannot provide meaningful restitution in most child pornography cases. In fact, a majority of child pornography victims who currently seek restitution end up with nothing at all. My bill will change that.

Under this legislation, a victim may choose to seek restitution from defendants or receive a one-time payment from the Crime Victims Fund. For those who seek restitution, this bill makes the process work with better criteria for judges to calculate a victim’s losses and provisions that ensure victims will receive meaningful restitution. The reserve within the Crime Victims Fund will be supported by an assessment on all child pornography defendants.

This bill also requires the appointment of a guardian ad litem for all victims of child pornography production and allows victims the same access to evidence as defendants have. This is important for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, and treatment.

This bill has been endorsed by many national organizations, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, National Crime Victims Law institute, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and the Children’s Justice Fund. Even more importantly, the bill is endorsed by the three individuals for whom it is named, victims in some of the most widely trafficked child pornography series in the world. One of them, who goes by the pseudonym Andy, is a Utah constituent. He writes:

“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’m lucky, and so are 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.”

Mr. Chairman, I ask that letters from Andy, Amy, and Vicky supporting this legislation be entered into the record. And I want to specifically thank Amy’s lawyer James Marsh, Vicky’s lawyer Carol Hepburn, Andy’s advocates at the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic, and Professor Paul Cassell at the University of Utah, who took Amy’s case all the way to the Supreme Court. Their assistance in developing this bill, drawn from their tireless advocacy for victims, has been invaluable.

Thanks again to my colleagues for standing up for these victims. I hope the full Senate will soon pass this legislation.

Statement of Chairman Chuck Grassley Before the Senate Judiciary Committee

S. 2152, the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act is on the agenda for the first time and will be held over at the request of the other side. This is a bipartisan bill introduced by Senator Hatch and cosponsored by me as well as by Senators Feinstein, Cornyn, Klobuchar, Whitehouse, Tillis, and Blumenthal.

The bill is named after “Amy,” “Vicky,” and “Andy,” victims in some of the most widely distributed child pornography in the world. It also creates a better system for compensating victims of child pornography, and addresses the concerns raised in the Supreme Court’s Paroline decision in 2014. The Paroline decision came in Amy’s restitution case.

The bill will establish more relevant and useful standards for the victims of child pornography who seek restitution from criminal defendants. It gives victims the alternative of a one-time fixed compensation payment from the Crime Victims Fund. The bill also requires appointment of a guardian ad litem for victims and allows them access to the images depicting them, which can be important for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, and treatment. I look forward to reporting this bill out of committee at our next executive business meeting.