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Floor Statement Protecting Children Against Crime Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. President, as you know, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and this week is National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Furthermore, just last week, I joined with my friends and colleagues, Senators Lincoln and Shelby, in announcing our creation of a new, bipartisan Senate Caucus on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children. And, just yesterday, I introduced the "Protecting Children Against Crime Act of 2003" (S.810).

I want to thank Senators GRASSLEY, HUTCHISON, and Shelby for joining me as original cosponsors of the Protecting Children Against Crime Act of 2003. This important legislation would help protect our nation's children from the most heinous of criminals -- child abductors, child pornographers, and others who would exploit or abuse children.

Every day, our local police and prosecutors are on the front line in the fight against the criminals who target children, and they deserve recognition for their hard work. However, the data suggest that law enforcement is fighting an uphill battle -- child victimization remains a large, pervasive, and extremely troubling problem in the United States.

According to the Congressional Research Service, up to one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused in this nation before they reach the age of 18. Many child molesters prey upon dozens of victims before they are reported to law enforcement. Furthermore, some child molesters evade detection for long periods because many children never report the abuse. In fact, Bureau of Justice Statistics suggests that between 60 percent and 80 percent of child molestations and 69 percent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police. Of those sexual assaults that are reported, 71 percent of the victims are children.

We also have a long way to go on behalf of missing children. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in 2001, 840,279 persons -- adults and juveniles -- were reported missing and entered into the FBI's national crime computer. As many as 725,000 of those reported missing were juveniles. On average, 2,000 children per day were reported missing to law enforcement in 2001, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Most missing children are eventually returned safely to their parents, but a small group of them are victims of more predatory abductors. The average victim of abduction and murder is a "low risk" 11-year-old girl from a middle-class neighborhood with a stable family relationship who has initial contact with an abductor within one-quarter mile of her home -- this is according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Washington State Attorney General's Office. For all of these reasons, it is vitally important that Congress do everything in its power to support parents and law enforcement in their efforts to protect our nation's most vulnerable citizens. Enacting the AProtecting Children Against Crime Act of 2003" would be a step in the right direction.

Among its major provisions, this legislation would eliminate the statute of limitations, under our federal criminal code, for prosecuting certain sex crimes against children and child abduction offenses. This provision recognizes that victims of such crimes often do not come forward until years after the abuse, out of shame or a fear of further humiliation. It is important that a sexual predator still be held accountable once a sexual abuse victim courageously chooses to come forward.

In addition, this bill would call for those who produce or distribute child pornography to be included in the national sex offender registry. As stated by the United States Supreme Court more than two decades ago, child pornography "is intrinsically related to the sexual abuse of children." Families need to know when a child pornographer moves into the neighborhood.

To assist states in finding their missing and runaway children, our bill also would authorize a new, grants-to-states program that encourages technology enhancements in the states' Amber Alert Communications Plans. Similar language, authored by Congressman Mark Foley, already has passed the House of Representatives as part of the "Child Abduction Prevention Act" (H.R. 1104). This language builds on the national Amber Alert legislation authored by Senator Hutchison and passed by the Senate earlier this year. Under the bill I introduced yesterday, this new grant program would be authorized at $5 million per year in each of fiscal years 2004 through 2007.

Finally, our bill would require the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study for Congress on the feasibility of having Internet Service Providers monitor online traffic to detect child pornography sites. The study also would examine both the extent to which credit cards are used to facilitate the sale of online child pornography and options for encouraging greater reporting of such illicit transactions to law enforcement officials.

Mr. President, our bill would help ensure that our children are protected from the most treacherous of criminals. This is a fight we need to win and a fight for which we must give our law enforcement officers every tool at our disposal. I urge my colleagues to support the enactment of S. 810.

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