Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee hearing on “Combating Crimes Against Children: Assessing the Legal Landscape.”
Chairman Goodlatte: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am very pleased to take part in this important hearing on combating crimes against children. Much progress has been made over the past few decades in preventing, investigating, and prosecuting child exploitation crimes. But there is still work to be done.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics once reported that 67 percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under the age of 18); 34 percent of all victims were under age 12. These statistics are unacceptable and are especially frightening in light of the fact that most child sexual abuse goes unreported. It is for this reason we must remain vigilant in protecting the most vulnerable and innocent victims of crime, our children. As a father and grandfather, I can think of no more important role for law enforcement.
Over the past several years, Congress has taken important steps to prevent criminals from victimizing children in the first place. This includes the establishment of a national sex offender registry and, with the passage of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, a comprehensive set of national guidelines for state sex offender registries. These registries are crucial in assuring that sex offenders are not living off the grid, are not evading state and federal law enforcement, and most importantly, are not having unsupervised interactions with children.
I very much appreciate the work of the United States Marshals and the contributions of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to this effort. Each provides assistance to state and local law enforcement in locating non-compliant sex offenders – people who pose a very real risk to our children. The US Marshals were tasked with this mission in the original Adam Walsh Act in 2006 and have worked assiduously in locating and apprehending fugitive sex offenders.
However, more work is needed to secure the implementation of the national standards in every state, so important information can be easily shared between jurisdictions. I thank Congressman Sensenbrenner for his introduction of the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act — legislation that is necessary to maintain the good accomplished by this Act and improve this system to be more efficient and more just.
Sex offenders will often go to great lengths to get close to children, to gain their trust, and then take advantage of their naïveté. That is why it is important that organizations that serve youth, and which are meant to provide children with mentors, can be sure their volunteers and employees do not have a history of predatory behavior. I commend the work of Congressmen Bishop and Schiff in introducing the Child Protection Improvements Act, which will give these organizations quick and affordable access to information in FBI databases when conducting background investigations.
We have a distinguished panel of witnesses here today to discuss this difficult subject. People who have dedicated their careers to protecting children and who are familiar with the pervasive nature of these crimes and the challenges in ending them. I look forward to hearing from our panel about the problems that are being encountered in preventing and investigating these crimes and what Congress and the states can do to help further combat them.
Congress has passed a number of bills to address the crisis of child exploitation in the United States – but we must keep up with this ever-evolving criminal behavior. This hearing will help us determine what more can be done to end these terrible crimes. I thank all of you for being here today, and I yield back the balance of my time.