Washington, D.C. – This week, the House of Representatives passed eight bills to fight child abuse and exploitation and bring perpetrators to justice. These bills are products of the House Judiciary Committee and enjoy broad bipartisan support.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the following statement on the House of Representatives’ action to protect our nation’s children.
Chairman Goodlatte: “I applaud the House of Representatives for taking strong, bipartisan action to protect our nation’s children. Every child deserves to have a safe childhood, but sadly this is not the case for too many of our nation’s kids. Children are among the most innocent and vulnerable among us and merit the highest protection of the law. The bills approved by the House this week will provide law enforcement the tools they need to prevent child abuse and bring those who harm these little ones to justice. I thank the many Members who worked hard on these bills and urge the Senate to take them up without delay.”
Below is a summary of the bills approved by the House this week.
The Child Protection Improvements Act (H.R. 695): Introduced by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Mike Bishop (R-Mich.) and approved by voice vote, this bill ensures that youth-serving organizations have access to national background checks on prospective staff and volunteers through the FBI’s database. Currently, many youth-serving organizations only have access to state-level background check systems.
The Targeting Child Predators Act (H.R. 883): This bill, authored by Representative Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and approved by voice vote, helps protect valuable information used to prosecute and convict child predators. Under current law, law enforcement is able to obtain the IP address of a suspected child predator and then subpoena Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for the user information attached to the IP address. However, the provider then may notify the user of the law enforcement inquiry, allowing the alleged child predator to destroy critical evidence. Under H.R. 883, ISPs must wait 180 days before notifying customers in child predator cases, where law enforcement has certified that such notification would endanger a person, cause the destruction of or tampering with evidence, cause flight from prosecution, or cause the intimidation of a potential witness. The bill also allows ISPs to challenge a nondisclosure requirement in court.
The Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1188): This bill, authored by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and approved by voice vote, reauthorizes the two primary programs of the Adam Walsh Act—the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and the Sex Offender Management Assistance Program—for five years and makes targeted changes to make the system more efficient and just. These programs help prevent child abuse by ensuring the public has access to information on known sex offenders who may live in their neighborhoods.
The Strengthening Children’s Safety Act (H.R. 1842): Authored by Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and approved by a vote of 371-30, this bill makes communities safer by enhancing penalties for sex offenders who fail to register in the national sex offender registry and then commit a crime of violence. It also ensures enhanced penalties for child exploitation crimes apply equally to all dangerous sex offenders by assuring those convicted of certain sex offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice are subject to the enhanced penalties applicable to recidivists under current law.
The Global Child Protection Act (H.R. 1862): Authored by Representative Martha Roby (R-Ala.) and approved by a vote of 372-30, the legislation combats global sex tourism by closing loopholes that allow child predators to go unpunished for their abuse of children overseas. Specifically, the bill expands the conduct covered for child sexual exploitation cases that involve abuse occurring abroad to include sexual contact. It also broadens the offenses covered in the recidivist enhancement provisions in current law to protect the youngest of child victims.
The Put Trafficking Victims First Act (H.R. 2473): There is an important need across the country to ensure that trafficking victims are perceived and treated as victims of crime, and afforded the same justice, rights, protections, and dignity that other crime victims receive. Authored by Representative Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) and approved by voice vote, the Put Trafficking Victims First Act, among other purposes, provides training to prosecutors on investigating and processing cases with a trauma-informed and victim-centered approach, and encourages states to provide appropriate services to victims of trafficking. The bill also calls for reports on the implementation of state safe harbor provisions and on how to improve mandatory restitution procedures for victims of trafficking in federal courts.
The Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act (H.R. 1761): Authored by Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) and approved by a vote of 368-51, the bill protects child pornography victims by remedying a federal court ruling in United States v. Palomino-Coronado. This decision allowed a defendant to walk free from production of child pornography charges, despite photographic evidence that he had engaged in sexual abuse of a seven-year-old child, because the court found that he lacked the specific intent to produce child pornography prior to abusing the child. To address this loophole in the law, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act adds additional bases of liability to the crime of child pornography production to prevent this heinous crime and bring criminals to justice.
The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act (H.R 1973): Sponsored by Representative Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) and approved by a vote of 415-3, this legislation requires prompt reporting of suspected cases of abuse, mandatory training, and implementation of policies and procedures for preventing, reporting, and addressing allegations of sexual abuse at amateur athletic governing bodies. It responds to recent allegations of sexual abuse made against personnel involved with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, and USA Taekwondo.
For more on the House Judiciary Committee’s work to combat child abuse and exploitation, click here.