Culpeper Star-Exponent: Spanberger, Cline reintroduce Child RESCUE Act against online exploitation & abuse

Nov 08, 2021
In the News


U.S. Representatives from Virginia Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) and Ben Cline (R-6th) have reintroduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen federal efforts to rescue U.S. children from sexual exploitation and abuse, according to a release Monday from the congresswoman’s office.

Technology companies reported more than 45 million photos and videos online of children being sexually abused in 2018, according to The New York Times. This is more than double found in 2017.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission released a report last month of child sexual abuse image producers and found these crimes increased by 422 percent over the last 15 years, according to Spanberger’s office.

The Child Response to Exploitation and Sexual Abuse of Children in Unaddressed Emergencies Act, or Child RESCUE Act, would create a national commission to study proactive strategies and identify resources needed to locate and rescue children.

“The sexual exploitation and abuse of children is an epidemic in our country. We must consider every avenue to protect America’s children and prosecute the criminals who commit these horrors,” said Spanberger in a statement.

Dept. of Justice efforts to implement a national strategy to prevent this exploitation and abuse have not lived up to this promise, she said.

“While local child protective services and law enforcement work around the clock to protect children in their communities, the scale of the problem is too large for these agencies alone,” Spanberger said.

The bill she is co-sponsoring would implement an improved, coordinated federal strategy to rescue American children from dangerous, negligent, and traumatic situations, she said.

Cline in a statement said he has long supported Bedford-based Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, one of more than 60 task forces combating online child predators across the country.

The Harrisonburg congressman said he was proud to join the effort to establish a new working group for additional proactive solutions to protect the nation’s youth from heinous online predators.

Other supporters of the measure are: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), National Criminal Justice Training Center, National Children’s Alliance, National District Attorney’s Association, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Fairplay, CHILD USA, CHILD USAdvocacy, Rights4Girls, Darkness to Light, National Center on Sexual Exploitation, ParentsTogether, and Shared Hope International.

“The scale of demand for child sexual abuse imagery in this country should disturb everyone. The Child RESCUE Act importantly focuses on dual offenders, those who both possess illegal images of children and are also perpetrators of sexual violence, by creating a mechanism to provide the information necessary for federal officials to quickly develop victim-centric protocols to help ensure prompt investigation and rescue of children,” said Scott Berkowitz, RAINN President.

The volume and complexity of cases referred to the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces outstrips their capacity, making it difficult to engage in more proactive investigations, said Brad Russ, Executive Director, National Criminal Justice Training Center. Less than 10% of the people actively engaged in the manufacture and online trading of child sexual abuse material are under investigation across the U.S., he said. And yet, 50-80% of those offenders are also molesting children, according to Russ.

The Child RESCUE Act will address underlying causes of child exploitation and make recommendations for a more effective response, he said.

It would require the U.S. Attorney General to establish a national working group—U.S. Commission on Children in Imminent Danger—to study policing strategies and needs to rescue American children in the United States from sexual exploitation and abuse online.

This commission would bring together experts from the federal government—including the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—and the private sector to create a nationwide strategy and identity how best to respond to a changing landscape and prevent child abuse across the country.

Other co-sponsors are U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (D-PA), Burgess Owens (R-UT), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). The measure, introduced July 2020 in the U.S. House of Representatives, was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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