Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced the Child Protection Act of 2012 (S. 3456), bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting young victims of child pornography and sexual abuse by strengthening law enforcement's ability to protect victims and witnesses and apprehend perpetrators. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is an original cosponsor of the legislation.
Currently, the maximum prison term for the possession of child pornography depicting minors 18 years of age and younger is 10 years. The Child Protection Act of 2012 would make the maximum prison term 20 years for the possession of child pornography depicting minors 12 years and younger -- thereby creating a new, stiffer penalty for the possession of child pornography depicting victims in this age category. In addition, current law authorizes courts to issue protective orders to restrain harassment of minor victims and witnesses upon the government attorney's motion. The Child Protection Act of 2012 would authorize courts to issue these protective orders upon their own motion as well. This legislation would also make it easier for the U.S. Marshals Service to apprehend fugitive sex offenders by authorizing them to obtain administrative subpoenas when investigating these cases. Finally, this legislation increases funds available for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, which train executive and judicial officials how to deal with cases of child sexual abuse.
"This bipartisan measure confronts one of the most despicable and dangerous crimes in America -- trafficking child pornography -- by increasing penalties and strengthening law enforcement tools. One key provision is to protect victims and witnesses," Blumenthal said. "Congress should do all that it can to protect children from child predators, and this bill provides critical new means to fight it. The Internet has opened channels for this horrific crime, which we need to close."
"Our nation's youth are our most precious asset, and law enforcement must employ every tool available to protect them from predators," Cornyn said. " This bill will impose tougher sentences for sex offenders who prey on children and help law enforcement protect victims who come forward to aid them as they track down and battle some of our nation's most vile criminals."
"We should take every step possible to protect our children and apprehend child predators," Whitehouse said. "This bipartisan bill will give our law enforcement agencies more tools to protect victims and witnesses and catch perpetrators, and is a commonsense step that we can take right now to help keep our kids safe."
The advent of the Internet spawned a resurgence in trafficking of child pornography. In fact, statistics paint an even grimmer picture:
Internet child pornography is among one of the fastest growing crimes in America, increasing at an average of 150 percent per year.
In 2008, Internet Watch Foundation found 1,536 individual child abuse domains. Of all known child abuse domains, 58 percent are housed in the United States.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's (NCMEC) Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed more than 51 million child pornography images and videos in the hopes of identifying the victims in them.
The Justice Department estimates that one-third of the world's pedophiles involved in organized pornography rings worldwide live in the United States.
In a survey of identified offenders,
19 percent had images of children younger than 3 years old;
39 percent had images of children younger than 6 years old; and
83 percent had images of children younger than 12 years old.
In June, Representative Lamar Smith (R-Texas) introduced companion legislation in the House (H.R. 6063) with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.) as an original co-sponsor. Currently, the House bill has 38 bipartisan cosponsors.