During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, Spanberger, Fitzpatrick, Owens Reintroduce Child Rescue Act to Crack Down on Child Exploitation & Abuse

The “Child Rescue Act” Would Create a National Commission to Study Proactive Policing Strategies, Identify Resources to Rescue Children From Sexual Exploitation & Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), and Burgess Owens (R-UT-04) today reintroduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen federal efforts to rescue children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

The sexual exploitation and abuse of children is an epidemic in the United States. In 2023, technology companies reported more than 105 million online images, videos, and other data files to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline — the centralized federal reporting system for the online exploitation of children. As AI-generated child sexual abuse material is threatening to overwhelm the CyberTipline, the job of law enforcement who use the system to investigate crimes and identify children who need to be rescued is becoming more difficult.

The bipartisan Child Rescue Act would require the U.S. Attorney General to create a national commission to study proactive policing strategies and identify the resources needed to locate and rescue children from sexual exploitation and abuse. This commission would bring together experts from the federal government — including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — and the private sector to create a nationwide strategy and identify how best to respond to a changing landscape and prevent child abuse across the country.

“The safety and security of our children must be a top priority. Congress and the whole of the federal government must do more to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse, help law enforcement investigate these crimes, and make sure state and local authorities are able to prosecute the criminals who engage in such despicable activities,” said Spanberger. “While local child protective services, law enforcement officers, and nonprofit organizations are working tirelessly to protect children and crack down on these crimes, these professionals alone are not equipped to contend with an epidemic of this scale. Our bipartisan legislation — which I am proud to reintroduce — would require the federal government to carry out a focused, coordinated strategy to aid in the rescue of children across the United States from abusive, neglectful, and traumatic situations.”

“Now more than ever in this digital age, legislators need to work to protect our children from sexual exploitation,” said Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to lead the bipartisan Child Rescue Act alongside Rep. Spanberger, which will strengthen federal efforts to protect and rescue children from exploitation and abuse.”

“The explosion of child exploitation and abuse is a crisis that demands immediate action,” said Owens. “Capitalizing on the latest technology, predators have found new and horrifying ways to target our most vulnerable, and we can’t turn a blind eye to these abhorrent crimes. I’m proud to once again support the Child Rescue Act, a key tool in our fight against this evil, empowering local, state, and federal authorities to proactively tackle this epidemic head-on, protect our children, and bring these criminals to justice.”

The Child Rescue Act is supported by several child protection and anti-exploitation advocacy organizations — including the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), National Center on Sexual Exploitation, National District Attorneys Association, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), National Children’s Alliance, and Rights4Girls.

“Today marks a significant step in our mission to safeguard children from exploitation. As an organization dedicated to ending this injustice, RAINN enthusiastically endorses the Child Rescue Act,” said Stefan Turkheimer, Vice President for Public Policy, RAINN. “This legislation takes proactive measures to identify and rescue children from the horrors of sexual exploitation and abuse, prioritizing the safety of all children.”

“Child sexual abuse is already horrific, and yet it is magnified when it spreads online,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO, National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “Our country’s leaders must confront this scourge by finding solutions to stop the spread of CSAM, including addressing issues, such as instances when technology companies refuse to respond to law enforcement, and the use of VPNs and encryption for CSAM sharing, which the working group created by this bill would seek to analyze and guide how attorneys general respond.”

“The Child Rescue Act is a pivotal enhancement to our efforts in protecting children from exploitation and abuse. By establishing a national working group and focusing on both proactive strategies and necessary resources, prosecutors will be better equipped to handle these complex cases,” said Nelson Bunn, Executive Director, National District Attorneys Association. “This critical bill not only fortifies our legal framework but also bolsters our continued efforts to bring offenders to justice while safeguarding our most vulnerable victims.”

“Children do not have a vote, so it is up to adults to support laws that protect them,” said Shaun Dougherty, Board President, SNAP. “This is particularly true of sexually trafficked children and those depicted in child pornography, who may have no adult in their lives who will step up to intervene on their behalf.”

Click here for bill text.

BACKGROUND

In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the PROTECT Our Children Act into law, which required the U.S. Attorney General to create and implement a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction and to appoint a high level official to coordinate that strategy. The law also required the Attorney General to submit this National Strategy to Congress on a biannual basis. However, in the more than 15 years since, only three of seven required reports have been developed — and have not met the full requirements under the law.

Proactive investigation of child abuse imagery to find dual offenders is the most powerful strategy to interdict child sexual predators — and prevent predictable future abuse. However, since 2008, proactive investigations have steeply declined. With limited resources, U.S. law enforcement agencies are increasingly unable to adequately prioritize and respond to the rapidly growing number of CyberTips about online abuse and are unable to proactively work cases of child sexual exploitation in their own jurisdictions.

Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect to the ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

###

Recent Posts


May 24, 2024
Veterans' Issues

Spanberger Statement Ahead of Memorial Day 2024

Congresswoman: “We Remember the Americans Who Set Forth in Service, Those Who Felt a Calling to Defend Our Core American Values, and Those Who Laid Down Their Lives to Protect Our Freedoms” WOODBRIDGE, Va. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today released the following statement ahead of Memorial Day 2024. “Memorial Day reminds us of the often-steep […]



May 23, 2024
Agriculture

Spanberger Statement on Status of Farm Bill Negotiations

The Congresswoman is the Only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today released the following statement on the status of Farm Bill negotiations ahead of a U.S. House Agriculture Committee markup on the House GOP’s initial Farm Bill. “As the only Virginian on the House Agriculture Committee, I […]



May 22, 2024
Local Issues

On Floor of U.S. House, Spanberger Shares “Stories of Service” from Virginians, Honors Servicemembers, Veterans, & Military Families During Military Appreciation Month

For the Second Year in a Row, the Congresswoman Shared “Stories of Service” She Received from Virginians to Honor the Personal Sacrifices of Those Who Put on the Uniform WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today honored Veterans, servicemembers, and Virginia military families. To recognize […]