Two members of Virginia’s Congressional Delegation have introduced a bill targeting child exploitation.
According to a release, Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Ben Cline (R-VA-06) introduced the Child Response to Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children in Unaddressed Emergencies, or Child RESCUE, Act.
This bill aims to strengthen federal efforts to rescue U.S. children from sexual exploitation and abuse.
The release says the number of calls to child protective services regarding child abuse has dropped dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and national sexual abuse hotlines have seen record levels of children using their services.
This bill would aim to address gaps in the 2008 PROTECT Our Children Act, which required the creation and implementation of a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction.
The release says that 2008 law also required an updated strategy on a biannual basis, but only two such reports have been submitted to Congress in the past 11 years.
Additionally, proactive investigations, which have been seen as the best tactic to stop child sexual predators and prevent future abuse, have declined in recent years while law enforcement agencies have struggled to respond to a massive growth in the number of tips.
“The safety of our children should be our number-one priority. The sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children are horrific crimes, and we should pursue all avenues to combat these crimes, eliminate images of exploitation from the internet, and prosecute those who engage in these activities,” said Spanberger. “For years, the Department of Justice has been required to engage directly on these issues, but its efforts have been woefully inadequate. Local child protective services and law enforcement agencies, though working tirelessly around the clock to protect kids and families, are not equipped for the new range of challenges.”
“For several years, I have supported the great work of the Bedford, VA based Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, one of over 60 task forces combating online child predators across the country,” said Cline. “I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to establish a new working group to develop additional proactive solutions that will protect our nation’s youth and safeguard them from these heinous online predators.”
The release says the Child RESCUE Act would require the U.S. Attorney General to create a national commission to study proactive strategies and necessary resources for the rescue of children from sexual exploitation and abuse online.
The commission, called the U.S. Commission on Children in Imminent Danger, would bring together experts from the federal government and private sector to create a national strategy and identify how to best respond to a changing landscape, including the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic.
Members from agencies like the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and others would study policing strategies and resource needs to rescue U.S. children who are victims of child sexual abuse material or victims of sexual abuse by people who are also engaged in child sexual abuse material crimes.