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Issue Of Restitution Raised In Virginia Child Sexual Abuse Law

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Virginia passed a new law against child sexual abuse and pornography last year, but some question whether the state's prosecutors are going after offenders for restitution, or if victims even know they have the right to demand it.

Before the state law took effect, child sexual abuse victims who amassed large counseling and other bills had to relive their ordeal in civil suit courtroom battles, and convince a court of their right to have the abuser pay for their suffering.

Camille Cooper, with the National Association to Protect Children, says although the law was a huge win for victims, there's no easy way to determine if prosecutors are pursuing civil damages on the victims' behalf. And since child pornography is a growing crime, she says it's essential to use restitution as a deterrent.

"It appears that the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission collects a lot of statistics related to the courts and related to sentencing, and they do collect information on fines and restitution, but there's no way to figure out whether restitution is being awarded to child pornography victims in these cases across Virginia," she says.

The issue was brought to light this week when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a victim who filed nearly 200 briefs to collect restitution did, in fact, have that right. What's most unfortunate, says Cooper, is that the Justice Department represented the offender and opposed the victim's right to collect.

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