Supreme Court limits restitution for child pornography victims

The Supreme Court has recently ruled that victims of child pornography will be paid restitution from those convicted of having the material.

However, the Court also indicated there would be limits placed on the amount paid for damages. In a 5-4 ruling, they instructed that lower courts will have to apportion the damages in relation to the suffering of the victim, something I agree with and applaud the court for doing.

The NBC News article entitled “Supreme Court Puts Limit on Compensation to Child Pornography Victims” stated the case that made it to the Supreme Court was that of a woman, referred to as Amy, who had been sexually abused by her uncle at the age of eight. Amy had found images of herself being circulated through the Internet nine years later, and her mental health began to deteriorate as a result.

The recovery fees were estimated at $3.4 million, and Amy’s lawyers argued in court that every person who trafficked her images online should be liable for the entire amount of the damages.

The defendant’s lawyers argued differently: According to the article’s author, Pete Williams, Amy’s uncle should not have to pay anything, “unless it could be proven that she wouldn’t have suffered any injury if he had not had the pictures”.

While the Supreme Court did not set a specific amount to be paid to Amy, it gave the lower courts the ability to do so in other cases. Even without a certain number being passed down by the high court, it is still a great victory for child pornography victims whose lives had been permanently altered, either mentally, physically or even monetarily, by these crimes.

I agree with the Supreme Court in that the amount of damages due to the victim depends on the situation and should be decided by lower courts. All victims of child pornography should receive monetary restitution for the damage done to them, especially when that pornography was bought and circulated by traffickers.

There needs to be some sort of monetary punishment in place against those convicted of possessing or selling child pornography. One of the most heinous crimes of humanity, sexual abuse, especially of children, is an inexcusable offense and should be punished with the full extent of the law.

I should mention that I always feel a bit frustrated with the defense attorneys in these cases, especially when they are arguing for a lesser sentence or no sentence at all for these people.

Yet, I can understand their position. It is easy to demonize those who defend the cruel, but there is a sort of justice in defending not only the victim but defending the victimizer. Every person has the right to defend themselves, regardless of their crimes.

We should focus on the ruling in this case, not the defense’s position, regardless of whether or not it is morally sound. The fact that the Supreme Court has acknowledged that there needs to be some sort of compensation for these victims is a step in the right direction.

Sexual abuse is extremely high in our country, and it is good to know that victims of child pornography will be given some sort of financial compensation for their suffering. This can be especially helpful for college students — it is often difficult for a university to research and prosecute sexual exploitation cases.

Even if the rate of sexual victimization on our own campus at the University of South Dakota may be relatively low, it could be helpful to those students who are mentally and physically damaged by any sort of child pornography scandal.

Hopefully, the lower courts will utilize this ruling to its fullest extent and help to rectify some of the damage done to these people.

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