Lawmakers pushing legislation to strengthen punishment for child sexual abusers

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - There is a federal fight to stop child sexual abuse. Some lawmakers say convicts have it easy under the current law, so they are moving legislation through the House to strengthen punishment. They also hope it will also act as a deterrent.

Camille Cooper, director of government affairs for National Alliance to Protect Children, says the government is not doing enough to stop child sexual abuse.

“The victims are becoming younger, and the abuse is becoming more violent,” said Camille Cooper, Director of Government Affairs for the National Association to Protect Children.

She says child sexual abuse is getting worse, and Congress is not doing enough to address the issue.

“All these children, they keep coming forward, they keep speaking out, and government just has not raised its response to the level that it needs to be,” said Cooper.

Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-TX) is trying to change that with his Strengthening Children’s Safety Act. The bill calls for a national standard punishment for those convicted of sexual abuse. Penalties would apply equally to all dangerous offenders across the United States, no longer on a state-by-state basis.

“We’re trying to provide legislative fixes and solutions that will hold people accountable and serve as a deterrent effect to those who might be committing these crimes,” said Ratcliffe.

There is opposition to this legislation on Capitol Hill. Ratcliffe’s bill has a component that includes a mandatory minimum prison sentence for perpetrators. He has received pushback from Democrats who are principally opposed to mandatory minimums.

“We all have the same value, which is, we want tough punishment for those who commit the worst offenses, but we can’t do it through one-size-fits-all sentences,” said Ring.

Ring is the president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. He says minimum sentences are not a deterrent for would-be sex offenders. He says they just create prison overloads.

“The type of people who are preying upon children are not long term, rational actors who are thinking cost-benefit,” said Ring. “They’re not pouring through the U.S. code saying, ‘Oh I thought this was a five year penalty. It’s a 10 year? Then I’m going to stay away from that.’”

Ratcliffe’s bill has no co-sponsors, but he’s working to gather support as it heads to the House floor.

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