Paroline v. United States: A case for restitution
“Amy”, as she’s known in court documents, was just 8 years old when her uncle sexually abused and raped her. He photographed the abuse to produce child pornography. These images were then circulated on the Internet, and offenders worldwide collected and circulated the images. Amy was revictimized with each viewing.
The emotional cost of Amy’s harm is immeasurable. Individuals who possess child pornography violate and exploit their victims by viewing a record of the child’s sexual abuse for personal gratification. This problem is pervasive and has grown steadily in recent years. It is increasingly important for victims of child pornography to be able to recover full restitution for the harm caused to them.
Amy, through her attorneys, will argue today before the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Paroline v. United States. This landmark case will decide to what extent offenders who possess images of Amy’s sexual abuse must pay for the harm caused by their collective and ongoing victimization. This case will impact not only Amy’s ability to obtain restitution but the restitution claims of other victims of online child pornography.
Our support for Amy
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, with pro bono assistance from the law firm of Ropes & Gray, has submitted an amicus brief to the Court supporting Amy’s request for full restitution. In this brief we explain that the demand for child pornography drives its production, and those who possess these images are as culpable as producers of the images.
Our organization serves as the central repository in the U.S. for information related to child pornography. Our Child Victim Identification Program provides information relevant to child pornography investigations and assists law enforcement in the identification of child pornography victims. The CyberTipline is the central reporting mechanism to which the public, law enforcement and electronic service providers can provide tips and leads concerning child sexual exploitation.
The full cost of harm
Amy’s experience demonstrates the unique harm she and other victims of child pornography suffer. Between August 2002 and September 2013, we received more than 4,900 submissions from law enforcement that included images of Amy. Those reports contained more than 70,000 images of her abuse that had been viewed and/or traded by offenders for their own gratification.
"How can I ever get over this when the crime that is happening to me will never end? How can I get over this when the shameful abuse I suffered is out there forever and being enjoyed by sick people?"
- Amy, as written in her victim impact statement
Every individual who views, possesses, creates or distributes child pornography contributes to the harm suffered by these victims. Restitution can never undo the damage Amy suffered, but it can provide necessary funds for her and other victims to receive therapy and compensation for the entirety of their losses. The full cost of the harm suffered as a result of the global trafficking of child sexual abuse images should be on the shoulders of the offenders, not the innocent victims.