Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Combat Online Predators Act (H.R. 4203).

Chairman Goodlatte: Every year, about 7.5 million people are stalked in the United States. Of these victims, 11 percent have been stalked for 5 years or more and 46 percent experience at least one unwanted contact per week. The impact of stalking on victims is significant; many of them fear what a stalker will do or feel vulnerable and isolated because no one understands why they are afraid. Stalking even causes one in eight persons to skip work and one in seven to move out of fear, and increases the prevalence of anxiety, insomnia, and depression among victims.

Among these victims, predators disproportionately target children, knowing that they are more susceptible to stalking. These children commonly report the same feelings that adult victims have: fear and concern for their safety. But unlike adults, children may find greater difficulty in reporting a predator that is stalking them or finding a way to escape harassment. We must take further action to protect children and promote their safety.

While most states have criminal laws to prohibit stalking, the federal criminal code also contains provisions to punish the most egregious forms of stalking when that conduct crosses state lines. For example, it is a federal crime to for an individual to stalk someone by crossing state lines with the intent to kill or seriously injure that individual. However, the federal code does not have additional penalties when the victim is a child.

To further protect children from these crimes, H.R. 4203, the Combat Online Predators Act, enhances the federal penalty for stalking victims under the age of 18 years by increasing the maximum term of imprisonment by five years when the victim is a minor. It also directs the Department of Justice to evaluate federal, tribal, state, and local efforts to enforce stalking laws and identify the best practices for enforcing these laws.

With this bill, we can further deter stalking and learn the best ways to protect the most vulnerable Americans from harm.

I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 4203.