I’ve thought a great deal about a January 23rd piece in the New York Times, “Justices Seem Stumped On Calculating Damages Over Child Pornography.” The article is about the Supreme Court Justices and their work determining what the financial liability should be for a man who has viewed a pornographic image of a child — or hundreds or thousands of images. It’s also how the penalty should be divided up when many men have seen the pictures.
The justices are clearly confused, uncertain as to what is right. This is understandable. If 70,000 people have viewed a photo of a girl being abused, being raped, how much money should one of those viewers be responsible to pay? What portion of $3.4 million, the amount one viewer was assessed, does one man owe? Or does he owe the entire amount because each person is obligated to pay the total?
This is a complicated and difficult issue with no obvious way of dividing up liability. I feel for the Justices because their final answer will be based not only on how much income they estimate she will lose because of lasting psychological damage, but also will put a dollar amount on the massive amount of her emotional pain and suffering.
The victim’s uncle who attacked her was only required to pay $6325.00 and spend twelve years in prison. How much does the thousandth viewer of the pictures owe — or the ten-thousandth viewer? Are they equally responsible or is the first viewer liable for more money than later viewers?
I haven’t seen a photo of Amy, the name given to the eight year old child assaulted in the pictures. I’ve wondered, for a long time, how terrible she must feel today from knowing so many men have seen the brutal abuse that she experienced two decades ago.
In 2005, when my then husband was arrested for receipt of child pornography, I saw one photo on a CD that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents missed in my home. It’s of a girl, about six years old, with full, wavy dark hair and large, expressive sad eyes and is etched in my memory forever. I don’t know when it was taken so can’t imagine how old the girl is today. Perhaps she’s dead. Maybe she was killed trying to escape. Maybe she was murdered by one of her abusers. All are real possibilities and there’s no way of knowing. The horrific life of such a girl is beyond imagination.
I wonder what will happen for Amy, the woman identified in this article. I wonder if my ex-husband is reading about this Supreme Court case and what he thinks of it. I wonder if he experiences a shred of guilt about the past when he looked at photos of girls being raped and brutalized. Or has he pushed it out of his mind in his concern about cancer threatening his own life?