WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Ben Cline (R-VA-06) reintroduced their bipartisan legislation to strengthen federal efforts to rescue U.S. children from sexual exploitation and abuse.
According to The New York Times, technology companies reported more than 45 million photos and videos online of children being sexually abused in 2018 — more than double what was found the year prior. Separately, the U.S. Sentencing Commission released a report last month which studied child sexual abuse image producers and found that these crimes had increased by 422 percent over the last 15 years.
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 the resources needed to locate and rescue children from sexual exploitation and abuse.
“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. “For more than a decade, the Department of Justice has been required by law to implement a national strategy to prevent this exploitation and abuse, but its efforts have not lived up to this promise. 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. Our bipartisan legislation would implement an improved, coordinated federal strategy to rescue American children from dangerous, negligent, and traumatic situations. I would also like to thank my fellow Virginian Congressman Cline for co-leading this critical, bipartisan effort.”
“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 bipartisan Child RESCUE Act is supported by several child protection and anti-exploitation advocacy organizations — including the 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. We thank Reps. Spanberger and Cline for their leadership and urge members of Congress to support this critical bill,” said Scott Berkowitz, President & Founder, RAINN.
“The National Criminal Justice Training Center would like to thank Congresswoman Spanberger and Congressman Cline for supporting the efforts of criminal justice agencies across the country to combat the online exploitation of children,” said Brad Russ, Executive Director, National Criminal Justice Training Center. “The volume and complexity of cases referred to the 61 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces and their affiliates outstrips their capacity, making it difficult to engage in more proactive investigations. For example, less than 10% of the people actively engaged in the manufacture and online trading of child sexual abuse material are under investigation across the United States, despite the fact that studies have shown that between 50% and 80% of those offenders are also molesting children. The Child RESCUE Act provides an opportunity for national leaders actively engaged in combating child exploitation the opportunity to evaluate the underlying causes and make recommendations for a more effective response to this growing problem.”
Specifically, the Child RESCUE Act would require the U.S. Attorney General to establish a national working group — to be known as the U.S. Commission on Children in Imminent Danger — to study proactive policing strategies and resource needs to rescue children in the United States from sexual exploitation and abuse online. This commission would bring together experts from the federal government — including the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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.
The Child RESCUE Act is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Burgess Owens (R-UT-04), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL-23).
Click here to read the full bill text.
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. Additionally, the Act required that an updated strategy be submitted to Congress on a biannual basis.
However, in the 13 years since the Act became law, only two such reports have been developed. With limited resources, U.S. law enforcement agencies are increasingly unable to adequately prioritize and respond to the rapidly growing number of Cyber Tips about online abuse and are unable to proactively work cases of child sexual exploitation in their own jurisdictions.
In Virginia, anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect to their local department of social services or the Child Protective Services Hotline at (800) 552-7096.