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A Personal Injury Remedy for Child Pornography’s Victims

Personal injury cases are often brought to help remedy injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, and medical malpractice. But, as I have written of previously, personal injury lawsuits can, in certain cases, arrive at a resolution where no other legal remedy is available. With the rise of child pornography on the Internet in the last two decades, personal injury law is proving a new and novel tool both for deterring the future exchange of illegal pornographic materials and for helping its child victims recover.One of the most widely viewed victims of Internet child pornography was sexually abused by her uncle between the ages of 4 and 9. Amy, as she is known to the media, has had her pictures and videos factored into around 3,200 criminal cases in the last fifteen years. The news of her images’ popularity online was a shock to Amy, occurring years after her uncle’s abuse ended. The trauma of knowing that, in Amy’s words, “at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle,” has been a significant impediment in her road to recovery.After evaluating Amy, forensic psychologist Joyanna Silberg expects that she will need to continue therapy throughout the rest of her life, and that she is likely to suffer periodic setbacks that will disrupt her career prospects. Amy’s attorney James Marsh has estimated the cost of Amy’s lifetime treatment at just under $3.4 million.While her uncle has been punished with a prison sentence for his crimes, this still does not cover Amy’s damages. Amy’s atttorney James Marsh solution so far has been to file a new lawsuit against each defendant found in possession of pornographic pictures of Amy. The reasoning behind this is that with each distribution and viewing of these images, Amy’s privacy is violated by yet another individual. There have been 180 cases to date, and from these Amy has recovered over 40% of her damages. Next month, the US Supreme Court will decide if the burden of tracking down each of these offenders should rest with Amy and Marsh, or with the men already charged with viewing the images.While I hope for Amy’s sake that this case works out in her favor, either way it demonstrates how effective personal injury law can be in cases where no other remedy is available. James Marsh has made significant headway in covering Amy’s treatment costs by digging into the pockets of the men who have benefitted from her continued trauma.Sources: New York Times, “How Much Can Restitution Help Victims of Child Pornography,” January 24, 2013.New York Times, “Allocating Liability for Child Pornography, in Full or Fractional Shares,” December 2, 2013.