U.S. Senate Votes on Justice for Amy Act – Monetary Compensation for Child Sex Abuse Victims


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Ensuring Monetary Compensation for Victims of Child Sex Abuse

*For immediate release, Philadelphia

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to pass the Justice for Amy and Vicky Act. This law applies to individuals who view images of child sex abuse and would hold them liable for the victim’s monetary damages. For example, a child is sexually abused and images of the abuse are shared online, first by the initial perpetrator and then again by hundreds, all over the internet. Under this law, the child-victim would be able seek financial compensation from any of the individuals who viewed the images.

The law was introduced by Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey in response to a United States Supreme Court decision last year. In that case, Paroline v. U.S., the Court severely limited the ability of child sex abuse victims to seek financial compensation in cases where images or videos of the abuse are shared, online or otherwise.

Paroline was not the initial perpetrator of child molestation. Rather, he was prosecuted for viewing images of the abuse online. The issue was whether he could be ordered to pay financial restitution to the child in the images. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court held that he could not, unless the victim (survivor of child abuse) could prove that Paroline’s viewing of the images caused actual damage to her. The practical effect of the Court’s ruling basically allowed victims to obtain compensation from one person only, i.e., the actual abuser. The case was a blow to survivors of child abuse in the U.S., making it more difficult to obtain justice. Read more about the case and the National Crime Victims Bar Association’s amicus curiae brief to the Court, co-authored by Brian Kent.

Financial Compensation Rights – Survivors of Child Sex Abuse & Assault

Individuals who were sexually abused as a child commonly misunderstand their civil legal rights and instead focus entirely on criminal cases against perpetrators, i.e., the people who commit the acts of abuse. Many believe that their sole legal remedy is in the criminal arena, when in fact, civil laws in virtually every state in the country allow victims of sexual abuse and assault to file civil lawsuits. Potential parties in a civil sex abuse lawsuit include not only the perpetrator of the abuse but any other party or entity which contributed to the abuse. The typical example involves a school which is held liable for covering up sexual abuse of students by a particular teacher. Another example involves a youth organization or church for engaging in the same type of conduct – shielding the abuser at the cost of innocent children.

The Justice for Amy and Vicky Act is now headed to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass. Once passed, the new law will open an avenue of civil justice for victims of child abuse who suffer again and again when images of the abuse are shared online. Individuals who view these images can be found liable and ordered to pay monetary compensation to the victims depicted in the images.

This law is important because the internet makes it that much easier to share these kinds of images. The reality is that child pornography is a growing problem in this country. We must do everything we can to put a stop to child pornography and child sex abuse. Please contact your representatives and urge them to vote for the Justice for Amy and Vicky Act. Click here for a state by state list of members of the House of Representatives.


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