Judiciary Committee Passes Biden Bills to Protect Families
Biden's legislation protects families from violence inside the home and on-line
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed two bipartisan bills by U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) designed to protect families from violence at home and on the Internet. The legislation provides greater roles for federal leadership and increased resources to protect children against exploitation online and create a network of volunteer attorneys to combat domestic violence.
"When it comes to protecting communities from violence, federal resources and attention are sorely lacking," said Sen. Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. "We need to give law enforcement and community organizations the tools they need to help protect families across the country from becoming victims. And, we need to connect victims with the resources they need to move on with their lives."
The Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the Combating Child Exploitation Act of 2007 (S.1738) and the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act (S.1515). Before these bills can be signed into law, the full Senate must vote on the legislation.
Combating Child Exploitation Act of 2007
"At the same time when the Internet has given children access to the world - it has also given the world access to our kids," said Sen. Biden. "Protecting them requires continuing and constant vigilance - in our neighborhoods, in our homes and on-line. We need to give law enforcement the funds and the tools to pull the plug on Internet predators."
At Senate and House hearings to explore the magnitude of online child exploitation in this country, the Department of Justice and the FBI testified that child exploitation is growing rapidly. Last month, a USA Today story examined new investigative techniques that have allowed law enforcement to identify over 600,000 unique computers trafficking child pornography over the Internet. Due to the lack of resources at the Federal, state and local level, however, we are investigating less than 2 percent of these cases. Research shows that if we were to investigate these cases we could rescue a victim of child exploitation at least 30 percent of the time.
The Combating Child Exploitation Act, passed by the House of Representatives in October 2007, takes a bold step forward in addressing the growing problem of child exploitation by creating a strong nationwide network of highly trained law enforcement experts to track down these offenders and put them away. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Justice to develop and implement National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. Requiring the Department to develop this strategy will ensure that we are taking a comprehensive, forward-looking approach to address this growing problem. In addition, the bill increases the number of federal agents focused on child exploitation and builds upon the critical Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program to ensure that we have at least one cyber unit in each state dedicated to these cases.
National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act
"Thousands of victims of domestic violence go without legal representation every day in this country. We can't allow this to continue," said Sen. Biden. "When victims can obtain effective protection orders, initiate separation proceedings and can rely on safe child custody hearings, they are more likely to come out of the shadows."
Fourteen years after the initial passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), domestic violence remains a stark reality for 1 in 4 American women. Experts estimate at best, less than 1 out of 5 low-income victims ever see a lawyer. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports a total of 236,907 callers in 2007 alone, an average of 4,556 calls a week. The second most frequent reason victims call the Hotline is to ask for legal help. Escaping violence at home can involve complex legal matters, and the National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act ensures comprehensive training for volunteer attorneys, hands-on oversight and management by local experts, and coordination with statewide legal coordinators.
The National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act taps into a wealth of resources - lawyers who want to volunteer to represent domestic violence victims. This legislation creates, for the first time, a streamlined national system to recruit and train volunteer lawyers and match them with domestic violence victims. Under the bill, an Internet-based National Domestic Violence Attorney Network would be coordinated and managed by the American Bar Association; statewide legal coordinators would manage legal services in their individual states; and the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Internet-based services would provide legal referrals to victims. The historic partnership forged in this bill will link lawyers quickly and seamlessly to training and new clients. And at the same time desperate victims will be referred to a statewide coordinator and quickly connected to a lawyer.