OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson led every attorney general in the country and four territorial attorneys general today in calling on congressional leaders to pass legislation supporting victims of child pornography.
The bipartisan bill, the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance 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. Today’s letter is directed to House and Judiciary Committee leaders.
“The trauma inflicted by child pornography is indescribable,” Ferguson said. “Current law fails victims by making it difficult to hold the people who harmed them accountable. This bill provides victims more choices, stronger protections and the support they need through the process.”
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,” the letter reads. “In order 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 in order 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 by giving victims a choice in what form of assistance will help them the most. For those pursuing litigation, the bill establishes a more meaningful definition of “full amount of a victim’s losses,” increasing the total amount a victim can recover from an individual defendant, and requires the court to appoint a guardian ad litem to support victims through the court process.
For those who do not want to pursue defendants in court, victims may apply for a one-time, $35,000 payment from the Child Pornography Victims Reserve within the federal Crime Victims Fund.
Critically, the bill also allows victims and their attorneys access to images in which they are depicted. This is crucial for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, treatment and the prevention and prosecution of future crimes.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania).
The letter was led by Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington and Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah. All state attorneys general signed the letter, along with attorneys general from: the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org