'Misty Series' Haunts Girl Long After Rape

Girl who was abused at the age of 4, then videotaped, and the child porn ?The Misty Series? was circulated for a decade around the Web. Now she is seeking financial restitution from anyone prosecuted for possessing any of her image, even if they did not c

From the time she was 4, Amy's trusted uncle forced her to have painful oral and anal sex while being videotaped, swearing her to silence in their "special secret."

In 1998 when she was 9, the sexual abuse stopped and her uncle was arrested and imprisoned, but for more than a decade photos of the little girl have circulated on the Internet in some of the most widely distributed child pornography of all time -- "the Misty series."

Nearly 35,000 graphic images have now turned up in collections of arrested pedophiles, and Amy, who is now 20, is going where few victims of this horrific crime have gone before: She is seeking financial restitution -- up to $3.4 million -- from anyone who has sought perverse pleasure from her pain.

"I am still discovering all the ways that the abuse and exploitation I suffer has hurt me, has set my life on the wrong course, and destroyed the normal childhood, teenage years and early adulthood that everyone deserves," Amy wrote in a victim impact statement she prepared for the courts.

"Every day of my life, I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures, recognize me and that I will be humiliated all over again," she wrote, recounting the lingering scars left on her life, despite years of therapy.

So far Amy, which is not her real name, has received about $170,000 in court-ordered restitution, and judges in several states have agreed that not only those who commit sex acts against children are culpable, but also those who download the images.

But not every jurisdiction agrees with the heavy court-ordered payments for those who view such images. Some judges have said restitution goes too far in punishing pedophiles whose only crime is to view photos, but Amy's lawyer, James Marsh, disagrees, saying the brutality in the "secret society" of child pornography requires tough measures.

"This is not 13-year-olds in bras or sexting or 17-year-old girls gone wild -- these are kids who are raped," said Marsh, a New York City lawyer.

"In one notorious set of images, the father used to put a studded collar around his 6-year-old and wrote on her in what looked like blood, 'I am Daddy's little girl, rape me.' He locked her in a dog cage," he told ABCNews.com.

Marsh is now seeking restitution in 350 cases that involve photos of Amy, through automated filings to the United States attorneys handling the cases.

In 1995, Marsh helped update a federal law that gives victims the right to sue anyone who produces, distributes or possess their child sex abuse images. It now provides statutory damages of $150,000 for each violation of federal child pornography provisions and was incorporated into the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and signed by President Bush 2006.

Masha's Law Allows Victims to Seek Damages

So-called "Masha's Law" came out of a 1998 case of a Russian orphan girl, known as Masha Allen, who was targeted by a sophisticated child pedophile network. Her American adoptive father raped and sexually abused her for six years and distributed hundreds of images on the Internet.

At the time, Marsh testified in Congress that social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube, as well as camera-enabled cell phones have "enabled and facilitated" child trafficking and the commercialization and distribution of child pornography.

Amy first became aware of the photos in 2005, when she began receiving victim notifications from government - now up to 850 in all - which were mandated by the 1984 Victims of Crime Act.

Each time a pedophile was prosecuted for downloading her images, a letter would arrive at her home, and she would relive the abuse.

Amy's uncle bought her gifts and let her ride his motorcycle. Now, distrusting, she shuns the generosity of others and fears getting a driver's license. "I will never ride a motorcycle again," she wrote.

Amy failed a high school anatomy class because of the disgust she felt at the human body. She is unable to trust others and says she sometimes "drinks too much" to hide her feelings of shame.

After the abuse her uncle would give her beef jerky, once a favorite snack, but now it evokes "feelings of panic, guilt," she said. "It's like I can never get away from what happened to me."

All this Amy described in the victim-impact statement Marsh urged her to write. He also hired a psychologist and estimated damages, based on costs of counseling, lost wages and lawyers fees, came to $3,467,854. Marsh said they will not stop seeking restitution until that sum is reached.

For years, authorities could not seek restitution because victims could not be identified.

But in 2009, The Center for Missing and Exploited Children was able to identify a girl they called "Amy" among 150 digital images that had been seized by Texas police in the case of a 43-year-old Dyle Randall Paroline.

They say that in that year alone, the Misty series was viewed by more than 8,800, showing Amy forced to perform "extremely graphic" acts, including oral sex, anal penetration and masturbation with an adult man.

Federal prosecutors sought $3.4 million restitution from Paroline, who pled guilty to possessing the photos, but U.S. Judge Leonard Davis said in an 18-page opinion that was too much, violating the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on excessive punishments. In a similar case in Maine, the judge agreed.

But Amy had already been successful in several cases. The first award of $200,000 came from a Connecticut judge in the conviction of Alan Hesketh, a British executive who had more than 1,000 images of child pornography, including some from the "Misty Series."

And in two separate cases in Florida, judges have ordered the defendants to pay Amy nearly $3.3 million and $3.7 million, and in California, a judge ordered $50,000 in restitution.

"The healing process is hard enough without 800 reminders coming in the mail constantly, knowing that other people knew what happened to you," said Jennifer Wilson Marsh, who is hotline director for The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation's largest anti-sexual assault organization. "The shame is amplified."

But Wilson Marsh, who is no relation to Amy's lawyer, wonders how restitution will stop these heinous crimes.

"A lot of perpetrators find their way around the law," she told ABCNews.com. "It's really hard to put a monetary value on trauma."

One San Diego woman who was raped then photographed while interviewing for a job at the age of 21, said Amy's pain can't be erased with restitution.

"No money can cover what happened," said Aliza Amar, now a 49-year old activist for RAINN. "No money can take the shame away."

And others say punishing those who only download pornography in this way is too harsh.

"Not to excuse what the downloaders do and their complicity, but the actual abuser, the person who took the picture is worse. He actually harmed the child," said Amy Adler, a professor at New York University Law School who specializes in first amendment law and pornography.

Money Cannot Deter Pornography

"Given the severity of sentences and the jail time for downloading offenses, if that's not a significant deterrent, I don't know how money could be," said Adler. "Paying money is much less of a deterrent than jail for five years and then registering as a sex offender."

But a 2001 study of 400 inmates at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina concluded that offenders who were "merely collectors" of Internet child pornography were "significantly more likely than not to have sexually abused a child via a hands-on act."

Adler says that study is controversial, but Amy's lawyer insists the person who views the photos creates an incentive for violence against children.

Pornography "does not exist in a vacuum," said Marsh. A "powerful, long-term collector" - with 100,000 to 200,000 images -- can command others to commit sex crimes to obtain the images he wants.

Meanwhile, Amy leads a "very quiet, very simple" life at home with her parents in rural Pennsylvania. "She literally hasn't gone very far in life," said Marsh. "She tried to go to college, but couldn't cut it."

"She's a smart girl, very bright," he said. "But she has a lot of issues she grapples with in her past and is trying to get a handle on what happened to her."

Her uncle received a 17-25 year state sentence and a 10-year federal sentence, which were supposed to run consecutively. But because of administrative mistakes, the sentences ran concurrently, and he could be out in two years with parole.

"There is a misunderstanding of the crime, that it's photos of girls in bathing suits running around the sprinkler," said Marsh. "And people think pictures are not a big deal, it's just another greedy lawyer coming to cash in. But they don't understand the true nature of these criminal syndicates or the experience of the victim. For me, it's a no-brainer."

For help, contact RAINN's National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE for free confidential services.

ABC News information specialist Nicholas Tucker contributed to this report.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9773590.
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...