November 21, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Pornography case could assure aid to victims

 

The Spokesman-Review Editorial Board

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A pornography victim identified only as Amy Unknown is seeking $3.4 million in damages from one of probably thousands of the Internet swine who have gathered and disseminated pictures taken by her uncle when she was less than 10 years old, and Washington is leading the legal charge by 34 states to see that she gets it.

Wednesday, Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a friend of the court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear Doyle Randall Paroline v. Amy Unknown, in which the repulsive Paroline is fighting Amy’s claim for damages. After all, he had only two pictures of her.

But there are lizards like Paroline all over the world. How are the Unknowns slimed in the Internet underworld ever going to get the money to reclaim their lives if they have to sue each pornographer one by one, never certain of the outcome, and reliving the shame with every day in court?

“If victims were assured that courts would grant restitution for the full amount of their losses, they would likely be more willing to undergo the trauma of coming forward for a single proceeding,” Ferguson argues in his brief.

Although Congress imposed a requirement for mandatory restitution of victims almost 20 years ago with passage of the Violence Against Women Act, getting a conclusive ruling on the application of the law to those who say they merely possess the images – not make or distribute them – has been elusive.

With Paroline v. Amy, the Supreme Court will, hopefully, agree with Congress that the constant demand for ever viler images of the youngest possible victims leads to the creation of those images, and more abuse. Access to the networks where millions of the images are traded often requires would-be members to feed the beast.

And every time a Paroline opens one of those files, the abuse is perpetuated, presumably forever.

The victims, often groomed by exposure to depictions of abuse, are defenseless.

Multimillion-dollar damage awards will help some recover and, maybe, suppress some of the demand. The Unknowns need all that the law and the courts can do to keep the next Amy safe.

In arguing the case on behalf of the state coalition, Ferguson carries on the fight his predecessor, Rob McKenna, pressed as president of the National Association of Attorneys General. McKenna, with the support of legislative action, unsuccessfully attempted to suppress Internet advertising of sexual services if the providers did not verify the ages of those pictured in the ads.

But this is a good fight to keep fighting, and Ferguson deserves credit for carrying on, and for candidly acknowledging the work McKenna did before him.

Separately, Google and Microsoft’s announcement of new efforts to detect and block searches for child pornography are also praiseworthy.

More tools like this, continued prosecutions and serious financial penalties will help impede the propagation of filth, and the lifelong harm done its victims.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.


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