As a society, our children are perhaps the greatest, most precious responsibility given to us. They are vulnerable, innocent, and wholly dependent upon the adults surrounding them for protection. While horrible and unthinkable, the unfortunate reality is that not everyone takes this responsibility seriously, and there are even those who would do children harm.
The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that while the prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often unreported, experts still agree that the number of incidences is vastly greater than what is reported to authorities.
Children are the most vulnerable members of our society, and there is perhaps no greater responsibility before Congress than the call to protect them. I believe it is our job to provide the most effective tools available to confront, fight, punish, and ultimately prevent horrific crimes against children. Our legal protections for children and the punishments for those who harm them must be as strong as possible.
That’s why I was grateful that the House of Representatives recently passed my bill, H.R. 6847, the Preventing Child Exploitation Act of 2018, in the House where it recently passed. This bill combines four pieces of legislation in an effort to fight the abuse and exploitation of children and strengthen protections for them under the law. I’d like to take a moment to share with you more specifics on what this package of bills would accomplish.
First, my bill includes H.R. 1842, the Strengthening Children’s Safety Act, which makes our 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.
Second, the bill includes H.R. 1862, the Global Child Protection Act, legislation I previously introduced to combat global sex tourism by closing loopholes that allow child predators to go unpunished for their abuse of children overseas.
Third, this bill includes H.R. 1761, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act, to add legal measures to strengthen protections for victims of child pornography.
Fourth, and finally, my bill includes H.R. 1188, the Adam Walsh Reauthorization Act, to continue our support for programs that help prevent child abuse by ensuring that the public has access to information about known sex offenders in their neighborhoods.
In addition to introducing the Preventing Child Exploitation Act, I was also proud to join my colleagues in cosponsoring the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018. As you may know, the Victims of Child Abuse Act was first passed in 1990, and it provides federal funding for the development of Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC).
The primary mission of a CAC is to prevent further victimization of a child by ensuring that child abuse investigations are comprehensive and that intervention and healing services are age-appropriate for the needs of each individual child.
Congress unanimously reauthorized the Victims of Child Abuse Act reauthorization in 2014, but it is set to expire this year. I am hopeful that the House will take up this important piece of legislation soon to ensure that CACs have the resources necessary to serve the children who need them most.
In Congress, I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve on the Judiciary Committee where we have worked very diligently to combat crimes against children. In recent years, we have made remarkable progress in this fight – but we can, and we must, do more. I’m encouraged by House passage of the Preventing Child Exploitation Act, and I am hopeful that the Senate will act on this bill quickly to protect the most vulnerable among us. We must use every tool available to prevent horrific crimes against children.
Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.