CHILDREN'S SAFETY AND VIOLENT CRIME REDUCTION ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 20, 2006)
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today the Senate passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, which will help prevent the child exploitation by, among other things, creating a national system for the registration of sex offenders. Included in this legislation is a very important provision that I authored with Senator Isakson called Masha's Law. Masha's Law is named after a very brave 13-year-old girl--a Russian orphan who was adopted by a Pennsylvania man at the age of 5 and sexually exploited from the moment she was placed in his care. Masha suffered unspeakable atrocities in the hands of her abusive father, a man with a history of child exploitation. She continues to suffer as photographs of this abuse, taken by her father and posted on the Internet, are downloaded every day. Yet Masha does not cower in fear. She is taking a stand. She is using her experiences to demonstrate why the law must change. And it is because of her that we are now closing unacceptable loopholes in our child exploitation laws.
Masha's photographs are among the most commonly downloaded images of child pornography. Law enforcement estimates that 80 percent of child pornography collections contain at least one of her photographs. In fact, it was the high volume of images being distributed by this one individual that raised suspicions and led law enforcement officials to the home of Masha's adopted father. While he is currently in jail accused of sexual abuse and facing Federal charges, the damage to Masha continues every day as her pictures continue to be downloaded. Masha has sought compensation through a little used provision in the Child Abuse Victims' Rights Act of 1986 that provides statutory damages for the victims of sexual exploitation. Nothing will ever compensate Masha for the horrific experiences she has had, but the penalties provided in current law are embarrassingly low--they are one-third of the penalty for downloading music illegally.
According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child pornography has become a multibillion dollar Internet business. With the increasingly sophisticated technology of digital media, child pornography has become easier to produce, transfer, and purchase. We are not doing enough to deter those who post and download child pornography.
Masha's Law would do two things; first it would increase the civil statutory damages available to a victim of child exploitation; and second, it would ensure that victims of child pornography whose images remain in circulation after they have turned 18 can still recover when those images are downloaded. The injuries do not cease to exist simply because the victim has turned 18. They continue and so should the penalties.
These changes are long overdue. I am proud that the Senate has passed this important legislation, and I am grateful to Masha for having the courage to stand up and make her voice heard.
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