SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes led a bipartisan group of 54 state and territorial attorneys general in calling upon Congress to pass legislation supporting victims of child pornography, according to a statement from Reyes’ office.
The bipartisan bill, drafted by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, proposes to pass The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017; it unanimously passed the U.S. Senate Jan. 23 and awaits action in the House of Representatives. If enacted, the Amy, Vicky and Andy Act would make it easier for victims of child pornography to obtain restitution. A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate in 2015 but failed to pass the House of Representatives.
The letter is directed to House and Judiciary Committee leaders and was signed by every state attorney general in the nation along with attorneys general from the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“Victims need this bill,” Reyes said in the statement released Tuesday. “Child exploitation and abuse through pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes worldwide and certainly within our nation. A victim can be re-victimized his/her entire life from the dissemination of one child porn video. The number of children exploited globally has skyrocketed. The number of child porn images in the US processed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children increased by over two thousand percent in just a decade, and things have continued to get even worse.”
“The number of illicit images confiscated in Utah by the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce has grown alarmingly. Cases of youth being extorted or otherwise terrorized as victims of porn have risen exponentially everywhere. The only thing that has decreased is restitution for victims. That’s unacceptable. Congress can change that narrative by passing this law.”
A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Paroline v. United States held that while victims of child pornography are entitled to restitution, any individual defendant they sue is only liable for the harm caused by that one individual’s possession of the images.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision puts an enormous burden on victims of child pornography,” according to the letter sent to Congress. “To receive restitution, a victim must pursue every case in which a defendant was found to possess images of the victim. As the Supreme Court recognized, digital images of each child victim are trafficked worldwide, and there may be thousands of defendants found to possess each victim’s images.
“As a result, victims are only able to receive a small amount of restitution from each defendant and must pursue thousands of cases to receive full restitution. Preventing victims from collecting full restitution protects defendants, who are shielded from having to pay meaningful costs to those they have harmed.”
The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act will improve the law in these ways, according to the letter:
- Clarify congressional intent that victims be fully compensated for all the harms resulting from every perpetrator who contributed to their trauma.
- Establish a more meaningful definition of “full amount of a victim’s losses.”
- Clarify restitution owed to victims.
- Establish a process for victims to receive compensation from the Child Pornography Victims Reserve within the federal Crime Victims Fund.
- Require a judicial appointment of a guardian ad litem for victims of child pornography production.
- Allow victims and their attorneys access to images in which they are depicted which is crucial for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, treatment and the prevention and prosecution of future crimes.
- Require the U.S. Department of Justice to report on implementation within two years.
- US 2017 SB 2152 proposing the Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act
- Summary of the US 2017 SB 2152 proposing the Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act – provided by Office of Sen. Orrin Hatch
Ed. note: Updated March 10 to note bill drafted by Hatch and include full text of the bill and Hatch’s summary of the bill.