Five years ago today, Emily Bazelon’s groundbreaking story about Amy and Vicky and their struggle for survival was published in the New York Times Magazine. One year later, on January 22, 2014, Amy’s case on restitution for victims of child pornography, Paroline v. United States, was argued in the United States Supreme Court. It was not only a watershed moment for victims of childhood sexual abuse and online child exploitation, it was the first time any victim ever argued on their own behalf before the highest court in the land.
After several sincere but ultimately failed attempts to pass legislation to simplify and streamline child pornography victim restitution in the federal courts, the Senate has once again demonstrated its commitment to children by ratifying the AVAA late last night by unanimous consent. Without a #MeToo movement, sympathetic marches, or public calls for reform, a small group of Senators, led by the tireless lifelong advocate for child pornography victims Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, has taken firm stand on behalf of justice.
With the equally tireless support of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the United States Senate came together in a bi-partisan coalition of 27 cosponsors, 12 Democrats and 15 Republicans, to do the right thing far from the spotlight, rhetoric, or Twitter feeds. A broad ideological alliance in the Senate—from Warren and Gillibrand to Cruz and Cotton—supports fixing a law which both Justice Scalia and Justice Sotomayor agreed is broken.
The real challenge remains the House of Representatives which has steadfastly blocked reform for the past four years. The AVAA, which is based on a House bill introduced by Congressman Trey Gowdy in 2016 and co-sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, provides balanced meaningful remedies for victims of child pornography. Not only will the restitution process be simplified, but victims will also have access to a fixed compensation fund and guardians ad litem, and will enjoy equal rights with criminal defendants to review evidence of their abuse.
Now is the time for advocates, victims, and their supporters, to encourage the House to quickly consider and pass Senate Bill 2152. Child pornography restitution law reform is long overdue. Let’s make 2018 the year when victims of childhood sexual abuse and online exploitation get the help and support they need. The Senate’s right, left, and everyone in between has spoken decisively. Now it’s up to the House to join them.