Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Congress Considers Child Exploitation Act

Congress considers a bill that would change the way police pursue suspected child molesters. The proposal gained national attention on the Oprah Winfrey show.

We hear from those who work locally with victims and investigate the offenders, and we want to warn you, some of this information is graphic.

Hundreds of children in the Big Sandy region are examined for signs of sexual abuse each year. National researchers say 80 percent of people with child pornography have images of children being raped, and 21 percent have images of children gagged or tied up during sadistic sex.

Laura Kretzer, Executive Director of the Big Sandy Children's Advocacy Center, says, "Yes, there are severe reports of child sexual abuse in our region. Last year we saw approximately 200 children."

Workers at the Big Sandy Children's Advocacy Center and state police are often overwhelmed with caseloads. Investigators handled more than 700 cases since 2006 in the Big Sandy area alone. Some take a year to go to court.

Kentucky State Police Public Information Officer Mike Goble says, "They're tough to get prosecuted, due to the fact that a lot of times there's a lack of evidence, and pretty much you only have the victim's word."

U.S. Senate Bill 1738 aims to change that by increasing police authority to investigate internet crimes against children, among other measures. The idea is that going after child porn collectors will lead police to those actually molesting children.

David Keith, Hollywood actor and board member for the National Association to Protect Children, says, "It makes it a slam dunk case. You basically have a hard drive full of child porn, and you don't have a fragile little child on the stand who has to point her finger at, you know, Uncle Joe."

The legislation would cost more than half a billion dollars, but supporters say you can't put a price tag on a healthy childhood.

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