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Hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Subcommittee - Children and Families Need Tougher Federal and State Laws to Protect Children from Abuse

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Subcommittee on Children and Families on the need for tougher federal and state laws to protect children from abuse. Specifically, she called for strengthening requirements that abuses against children are reported to local law enforcement or a child protective agency.

Boxer cited the 1997 case of Sherrice Iverson, a 7-year-old from Los Angeles, who was molested and killed in a Nevada casino bathroom. Although the assailant's friend witnessed the molestation and learned of the murder, he never reported the case.

Senator Boxer has introduced two bills to strengthen federal and state reporting requirements to help ensure that abuses against children are reported to local authorities. Boxer is also the author of the Violence Against Children Act, which would enable states to get immediate federal help in preventing and solving crimes against children.

Below are Senator Boxer's remarks as prepared for delivery. A video of Senator Boxer's remarks can be downloaded here.

Chairman Mikulski, Ranking Member Burr and Senator Casey, I so appreciate this hearing.

As a mother, grandmother and Senator from California, I believe there should be zero tolerance for crimes against children. We need a new ethic in this country as much as we need to strengthen our laws.

If this ethic were in place, many crimes against children would be prevented and those who commit these crimes would be caught before their crimes are repeated and repeated and innocent children are damaged for life.

The facts cry out for attention:

* There are 700,000 reported cases of child abuse every year, including up to 80,000 reported cases of child sexual abuse.

* 71 percent of all sex crime victims are under the age of 18, and 38 percent of all kidnapping victims are under the age of 18.

Congress has not done enough to prevent these atrocities.

In May of 1997, Sherrice Iverson, a 7-year-old from Los Angeles was molested and killed in a Nevada casino bathroom. The assailant's friend witnessed the molestation and learned of the murder. He did nothing to stop it and he never reported it. That moved me to get involved in the issue of failure to report.

Unreported cases of child abuse have occurred at institutions of higher education, religious institutions, day care centers, and on federal land and property.

The worst part of the failure to report these horrific crimes is that it allows serial child abusers to continue to prey on the most defenseless among us.

It is time to act to protect children nationwide. Just as we came together in 1994 to pass the landmark Violence Against Women Act, we should now work together to pass a Violence Against Children Act.

Today, I am not here to talk about the many good bills on this subject. But, I do want to point out that the federal government has no reporting requirements for those who witness these crimes on federal property, including GSA buildings, military bases and national parks.

I close with this thought. After 9/11, our nation reached consensus that we would never ever sit passively on an airplane as a terrorist tried to take it over. Now our nation needs to reach a consensus that we will never ever turn a blind eye to a crime against an innocent child. We must all be ready to act to defend children.


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