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Grassley, Ossoff Bill Improves Justice for Victims of Child Sex Crimes

Bill Fixes Law that Allowed Nassar to Avert Federal Sex Trafficking Charges

WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and committee member Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) today unveiled new legislation to improve justice for young survivors of sex crimes. The Preventing Child Sex Abuse Act strengthens a federal sex tourism law that prosecutors feared was too vague to convict former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually assaulted hundreds of young athletes, some of which occurred while Nassar had traveled across state and international borders. The bill also cracks down on the use of foreign charity work as a cover for child sex abuse schemes and closes gaps in laws to better protect against secret sexually explicit recordings of minors as well as non-contact sexual abuse.
“This bill is inspired by the incredible bravery and pursuit of justice by the survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse. Their work to demand accountability will improve the lives of survivors everywhere and, God willing, help prevent future abuse. It’s essential that Congress strengthen and clarify existing statutes to better protect our children and ensure that predators are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Grassley said.
"Parents across Georgia are increasingly worried about online sexual predators who are targeting children. Our bipartisan legislation will help keep kids safer online and crack down on predators and abusers to the fullest extent of the law," Ossoff said.
In 2017, Nassar was convicted of several state sex offenses, but he was never charged federally for his illicit sexual contact with minors, even though he had crossed state and international lines to commit this conduct. That’s because federal authorities doubted whether his actions could be federally prosecuted based on the existing language of the sex trafficking statute. The Preventing Child Sex Abuse Act corrects this issue and strengthens other child sex abuse statutes by:
·       Prohibiting sexual predators from exploiting children during travel by clarifying that crossing state or international boundaries with the “intent to engage” in illicit sexual conduct constitutes a sex tourism offense. This provision would have increased the likelihood of federal charges against Nassar;
·       cracking down on sexual abuse under the guise of charity work by prohibiting the use of an affiliation with international charities or organizations to further illicit sexual conduct;
·       improving justice for survivors of non-physical sex crimes such as secret video recording by clarifying that the definition of “sexual activity” with minors doesn’t require physical contact.
The legislation also expresses the sense of Congress that the safety of children should be a top priority for public officials and communities in the United States, and recognizes that survivors of sexual abuse – particularly children – carry long-lasting physical and mental trauma. Congress has a duty to clarify the laws to better protect children and hold predators accountable.
“Thank you to Senator Grassley and Senator Ossoff for creating a federal bill that prioritizes the safety of children by fixing the loopholes in the existing federal laws to ensure perpetrators of child sexual abuse will face greater accountability for their heinous actions under federal law. Children will ultimately be safer as a result of this bill,” said Tasha Schwikert Moser, 2000 U.S. Olympic Medalist.
“As Executive Director of ICAA I fully support this bill and our Association fully endorses it.  It closes several critical gaps in current law.  Safety of our children is paramount and everyone should have an interest in working to better protect them.  This legislation assists prosecutors and law enforcement as we work to bring those to justice who abuse children,” said Jessica A. Reynolds, Executive Director of the Iowa County Attorneys Association.
"Rights4Girls welcomes the introduction of the Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Act, legislation that repairs a legislative loophole that allowed child predators like Larry Nassar to escape accountability under federal law. We thank Senators Grassley and Ossoff for demonstrating their commitment to survivors by correcting this critical gap in the law" said Yasmin Vafa, Executive Director, Rights4Girls.
“In the US someone is sexually assaulted every minute. And every 9 minutes the victim is a child.  Yet only 25 out of 1000 perpetrators will end up in prison. Senators Grassley & Ossoff make an unambiguous statement that we must focus squarely on accountability for people who exploit children.  This bill will make the law crystal clear when it comes to the sexual victimization of children, establishing a zero tolerance policy in federal law.  We at ICMEC applaud those efforts and will work tirelessly with Congress to ensure that anyone who sexually abuses a child will be prosecuted and convicted,” said Bob Cunningham, CEO of International Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
“We commend Senators Grassley and Ossoff for their bipartisan leadership - strengthening our country’s ability to respond to predators targeting children and ultimately keep our kids healthy, happy, and safe,” said Agatha Tomasik, Executive Director of Stop Child Predators.
“Sexual exploitation increasingly involves predators coercing minors into explicit activity that does not necessarily involve physical content. The Grassley/Ossoff bill makes it easier for federal officials to target these criminals,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“Protecting our children from abuse is one of the highest priorities for law enforcement. The Larry Nassar case exposed gaps in our criminal code that hampered law enforcement’s ability to prosecute child sexual predators to the fullest extent of the law. In closing many of these gaps, this legislation will enable federal prosecutors to ensure those seeking to abuse others physically, online, or over the phone can be apprehended and convicted. We applaud Senator Grassley and Senator Ossoff for introducing this bill to enhance law enforcement efforts to protect children from sexual abuse,” said National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys National President Steve Wasserman.
The bill is also endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Keep Kids Safe Movement.
Preventing Child Sex Abuse Act
·       Legislative Text
·       Summary