Attorney General Andy Beshear and 54 other state and territory attorneys general are calling on Congress to pass a measure that would ensure victims of child pornography receive meaningful restitution.
In a letter sent this week to House leaders, the attorneys general demand Congress quickly pass the Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017 (S.2152), which establishes guidelines for victim restitution in child pornography cases.
The attorneys general say the surge in child pornography over the internet has resulted in younger and younger children being victimized and trafficked by predators who, under current law, are shielded from having to pay meaningful costs to those they have harmed.
“After their images have been trafficked worldwide by thousands of predators, it is unacceptable that child victims of pornography are forced to file thousands of cases in order to receive full restitution,” Beshear said. “By fixing the compensation system, victims will receive the assistance and restitution they deserve and defendants will be held accountable.”
The letter outlines six ways the act will improve current law including clarifying that victims be fully compensated for all the harms resulting from every perpetrator who contributed to their trauma and creating a process for victims to receive compensation from a dedicated reserve.
The changes in law are needed following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Paroline v. United States, which put an enormous burden on the victims of child pornography by having them pursue individual cases in which a defendant was found to possess the victim’s image.
Caroline Ruschell, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Children’s Advocacy Centers said victims of child pornography have something in common – they all encounter the struggle of knowing their abuse lives on through the internet.
“Victims should be protected from being re-traumatized by these images, and should also be fairly treated by our courts though proceedings and restitution, like those laid out in the Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017,” said Ruschell. “Child sexual abuse and child pornography are far too common experiences for Kentucky’s children. While no state or federal law will ever remove the abuse, we can and should pass laws that provide justice and healing for these victims.”
The act has already passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous support and is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.
A similar bill passed the Senate in 2015, but failed to pass the House of Representatives.
The actions is the latest move by Beshear to protect Kentucky children from abuse and sexual exploitation, which he has made one of the top priorities for his office.
Over the past two years, the Child Victims’ Trust Fund, a nonprofit organization within Beshear’s office, has provided $260,000 to support statewide and regional child abuse prevention programs and organizations. An additional $160,000 went to support the state’s Children’s Advocacy Centers, helping pay the costs of hundreds of child sexual abuse medical exams.
The trust funding also supported the training of more than 1,200 prosecutors, social workers and community advocates on how to protect Kentucky’s children from sexual abuse.
Beshear’s Department of Criminal Investigations, Cyber Crimes Unit has also secured more than 155 arrests, indictments and convictions of sexual predators over the past two years.
Beshear said that Kentuckians have a moral and legal duty to report any instance of child abuse to local law enforcement or to Kentucky’s Child Abuse hotline at 877-597-2331 or 877-KYSAFE1.