Very significant victory in Congress today. The Marsh Law Firm has been seeking changes to civil remedies for victims of child pornography and online exploitation for over ten years. Today we achieved our goal.
The House today passed legislation drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein [D-CA] to require amateur athletics governing bodies like USA Gymnastics and other amateur sports organizations to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department.
The bill further authorizes the U.S. Center for Safe Sport to ensure that aspiring Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent and non-conflicted entity for investigation and resolution, and to make sure that all national governing bodies follow the strictest standards for child abuse prevention, detection and investigation.
The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act stems from recent allegations of sexual abuse made against personnel involved with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo and follows hearings earlier this year before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee on athlete safety issues.
“In recent weeks, the whole country watched the sentencing of Larry Nassar as young woman after young woman shared stories of abuse and the failures of the adults charged with protecting them. Passage of our bill wouldn’t have been possible without the courage of women who came forward to share those deeply painful experiences,” said Senator Feinstein. “Since I met with several brave women in February, I told them I would tirelessly work to pass this bill. Today is their day, and they should be proud that their decision to speak out has resulted in changes that will prevent the abuse of future generations of athletes.”
The bill amends the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, which governs amateur athletics governing bodies, to make it safe and easy for victims to report abuse and mandate oversight to ensure strong sexual-abuse prevention policies are implemented.
The bill also reforms Masha’s Law found at 18 U.S.C. 2255 by significantly enhancing federal civil remedies for victims of child pornography. The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, S. 534, makes the following critical changes:
- Clarifies that the $150,000 statutory damages clause is “liquidated damages”
- Clarifies that victims can elect “actual damages” OR $150,000 in “liquidated damages”
- Adds “other litigation costs reasonably incurred” to statutorily recoverable losses
- Specifically allows courts to award punitive damages
- Specifically allows courts to award “such other preliminary and equitable relief as the court determines to be appropriate”
- Extends the statute of limitations to 10 years after the victim turns age 18
- Adds a “reasonably discovered” provision to the statute of limitations – plaintiffs will have 10 years after they reasonably discover “the violation” or “injury” to file their action
- Adds a provision providing for national venue
- Adds a provision providing for national service of process
These long-sought critical reforms will empower victims of child pornography to hold offenders responsible not only in criminal court, but in federal civil court as well. Advocates for child pornography victims have been seeking these changes for almost 10 years. We congratulate Congress for passing significant law reform for Olympic and amateur athletes, and victims of child pornography, forced labor trafficking, child sex trafficking, federal sex abuse and interstate prostitution.
The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, National Crime Victims Center, National Child Abuse Coalition, Child Welfare League of America, National Center for Victims of Crime, National Children’s Alliance, Childhelp, National Survivor Advocates Coalition, National Children’s Advocacy Center, Lauren’s Kids, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, Champion Women, CHILD USA, University of Utah Law Professor Paul Cassell, Child Sex Crime Victims’ Lawyer James R. Marsh, Crime Victims Expert Steve Twist and Former USA Gymnast Dominique Moceanu.
The bill is also supported by the National Governing Body Council of the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Center for SafeSport and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
NOW IS THE TIME TO PASS THE AVAA! Congress must not and cannot rest until federal criminal restitution reform is finally enacted. Let’s build on this victory to pass comprehensive reform for victims of child pornography and online exploitation.
NOW IS THE TIME TO PASS THE CVA! New York needs to follow the United States Congress by ensuring access to justice for all child victims!