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. Here are the floor speeches which were delivered by Senators Grassley, Hatch, and Schumer in support of the AVA.

Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Before the United States Senate
Regarding S.295, the Amy and Vicky act

Madam President, I thank the majority leader for moving ahead on S. 295, which we call the Amy and Vicky Act.

The need for this bill arises because of the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision last year in Paroline v. United States.

The Court at that time limited the recovery that a victim of a child pornography offense could receive, even as additional wrongdoers saw her image as it was repeatedly posted on the Internet.

Rather than making the offender provide restitution for all the harms caused by the repeated viewings, the Supreme Court limited the recovery against any one defendant to the relative harm that defendant caused.

This bill will expand the categories of loss for which the victim could recover. It would reverse, then, the Supreme Court by permitting the victim to recover up to the full loss from any one defendant, subject to a minimum amount, depending upon the defendant’s conduct. No longer, then, would the victim receive restitution from each defendant limited to that defendant’s own actions. Each defendant would be jointly and severally liable for the victim’s entire loss.

The bill sets up a contribution procedure for those defendants, which then would make the victim whole. Of course, that is the main point.

The choice is between the convicted child pornography offender being held responsible for the full loss and the innocent victim not receiving full compensation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the victim could not receive all her restitution from any one single defendant, even as her damage suffered was compounded. This bill appropriately rejects that. I hope it is not the last time this Congress overturns a Supreme Court decision.

I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this legislation, as I was in the last Congress. I was pleased that the first legislation the Judiciary Committee took up when I became chairman was this bipartisan child pornography bill, and I am glad to have shepherded that bill through the committee so that the Senate at this time can take it up as one of its first legislative items.

We should all commend, as I do, Senator Hatch for his work on this very important piece of legislation.

Statement of Senator Orrin G. Hatch

Before the United States Senate
Regarding S.295, the Amy and Vicky act

Mr./Mdm. President, the bill before us proves the axiom that big things come in small packages. This bill, the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act, may only be several pages long but it is a very big bill.

In 1994, by enacting the Violence Against Women Act, Congress required that defendants who commit certain crimes pay restitution to their victims. These are crimes, such as the sexual exploitation of children, that have a particularly devastating impact on victims and they need help to put their lives back together.

Last year, in a case titled Paroline v. United States, the Supreme Court concluded that the restitution statute cannot provide the restitution that Congress promised for child pornography victims. The only way to fix this problem is to amend the restitution statute in a way that accounts for the insidious and evil nature of child pornography itself.

The Supreme Court held in Paroline that, under the statute as currently written, a victim can seek restitution only for losses that are directly related to an individual defendant’s distribution or possession of specific images of her abuse. That is not only virtually impossible to prove, but it pretends that defendants and images are isolated and self-contained. The truth is that, in the Internet age, defendants are part of a growing, shifting, and constantly active group of individuals who keep the victimization going.

As the Supreme Court put it in Paroline last year, each viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the child’s abuse. Everyone who drives the trafficking in those images repeats that abuse and contributes to a victim’s losses. Some of them will be caught and prosecuted but others will hide in the shadows and seek safety in numbers.

The harsh reality for a victim is that the Internet has multiplied the number of individuals who harm her and, at the same time, made it harder to identify them so she can seek restitution. The bill before us today addresses this cruel Catch-22.

This bill is named for Amy and Vicky, the victims in two of the most widely viewed child pornography series in the world. When I re-introduced this bill on January 28, I also shared the story of Andy, a young man in Utah who is the victim in another widely distributed child pornography series. He is the named victim in more than 700 cases but has been granted restitution in only one-quarter of the cases in which he has sought it and actually received restitution in just two cases.

This bill provides judges with options for calculating a victim’s total losses and imposing restitution in different kinds of cases. That is not always easy, for the very reason that I just described. A judge must impose restitution in an individual case for losses that flow from ongoing harm. But that is the diabolical nature of child pornography and we must equip the criminal justice system to address it.

This bill helps victims in another important way. Today a victim must chase every defendant to seek restitution only to be told that she must prove the impossible and, therefore, receive next to nothing. In addition to providing a way for judges to require meaningful restitution in individual cases, this bill allows defendants who harm the same victim to seek contribution from each other to spread that restitution cost.

Let me put it as simply as I can. The current statute maximizes a victim’s burden and minimizes her restitution. This bill minimizes a victim’s burden and maximizes her restitution.

Both Amy and Vicky personally endorse this bill. National victim advocacy groups also support it, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; the National Organization for Victim Assistance; the National Crime Victim Law Institute; the National Center for Victims of Crime; the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women; and the Rape, Incest, and Abuse National Network. Last October I received a letter endorsing this bill signed by the attorneys general of 43 states, 22 Republicans and 21 Democrats.

This has, in fact, been a truly bipartisan effort. The senior Senator from New York, Senator Schumer, has been my partner from the start in developing this legislation and has been a champion for crime victims for many years. The current co-sponsors include 22 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

Big things really do come in small packages. I have been contacted by advocates working with dozens of countries around the world to tackle the problem of child pornography and exploitation. They emphasize the need for meaningful restitution and say that this legislation can be an example for other countries to follow.

Congress in 1994 required full restitution for child victims of sexual exploitation. The Supreme Court last year confirmed that the restitution statute cannot keep that promise to victims of child pornography. Enacting this legislation shows Congress at its best, stepping up and taking the action necessary to address this problem. Amy, Vicky, and Andy are counting on us.

Statement of Senator Chuck Schumer

Before the United States Senate
Regarding S.295, the Amy and Vicky act

Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act, which my good friend Senator Orrin Hatch has requested a vote on this afternoon.

First, I thank Senator Hatch for his work on this important legislation. I was proud to work alongside him as the Democratic cosponsor of his bill, and he has been an absolute force in pushing this bill in the Judiciary Committee and to the floor today. We have had a great partnership and have worked on many things together, and I think I join every one of my 99 colleagues in telling the Senator from Utah how much respect we have for him.

Our bill does one important thing. It fixes a flaw in our restitution system for pornography victims. You see, in this day and age, victims of child pornography face ongoing harm every time a video or picture of them is shared and viewed on the Internet. As the Supreme Court explained about a victim:

These sexual abuse crimes are compounded by the distribution of images of her abuser’s horrific acts, which meant the wrongs inflicted upon her were in effect repeated; for she knew her humiliation and hurt were and would be renewed into the future as an ever-increasing number of wrongdoers witnessed the crimes committed against her.

The horror of sexual abuse can be long lasting. It can constitute the loss of income, medical care, psychiatric counseling, and therapy. The victims of sexual abuse, therefore, are absolutely in the right to seek restitution from those evil criminals who perpetuate the original crime by sharing and viewing images of the crime.

A 2014 Supreme Court case, Paroline v. United States, placed a heavy burden on the child pornography victims trying to recover restitution. The tragic effect of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Paroline case was this: The more widely viewed the pornographic image of a victim and the more offenders there are, the more difficult it is for the victim to recover for her anguish and her damages.

For the perpetrators of child pornography, there should not be safety in numbers.

Now, the bill that Senator Hatch has led on and I was proud to cosponsor rights this wrong. Our bill provides a method for these victims to seek restitution for the total harm they endured from this horrific victimization. Specifically, the Amy and Vicky Act does three things that reflect the nature of these crimes. First, it considers the total harm to the victim, including from individuals who may not yet have been identified. Second, it requires real and timely restitution. And, third, it allows defendants who have contributed to the same victims’ harm to spread the restitution cost among themselves.

These specific changes are supported by the attorneys general of 43 States and countless national victim advocacy groups, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and they have wide bipartisan support in the Senate.

Once again, I commend my colleague Senator Hatch for the great work he has done on this and other things.

As I said while he was not in the Chamber, I look forward to our working on many other causes together. He is a great leader and very well respected by me and all of his colleagues.

I urge my colleagues to pass this important measure to give more power to the victims of sexual abuse to seek redress, closure, and justice for the crimes—the dastardly crimes—committed against them.