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U.S. House of Representatives passage of HR 1761

  • 07 Jun 2017 9:07 AM
    Message # 4885190
    John (Administrator)


    The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) makes the following

    statement regarding the May 25, 2017, passage by the U.S. House of Representatives

    of HR 1761, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017:

    We applaud the intent of this bill to strengthen statutes prohibiting the production and distribution of child pornography.

    Child sexual abuse is a horrific crime that can cause long-term trauma and harm to those who are abused. Unfortunately,

    this bill, as passed, creates the unintended consequence of criminalizing all transmissions of sexual images of minors.

    This includes sexting among consenting teenagers.

    As written, this law creates an inflexible, one-size-fits-all system that would subject any teenager caught sending a

    sexually revealing photo of him- or herself, or viewing such a photo, to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in

    prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

    Surveys of students consistently find that 20 to 50 percent of teens have exchanged sexually explicit text messages that include images. While this fact may make parents uncomfortable, we do not think most families would agree that consensual texting should result in teenagers going to prison and registering as sex offenders.

    This is not the way to address teenage misbehavior or help adolescents learn to make better decisions.

    Adolescents are not mini-adults, and public safety generally is not improved by imposing harsh penalties on youth.

    Teenagers and communities are best served by recognizing that adolescence is a time of change and growth, and that

    the most effective laws and policies focus on helping teens develop prosocial skills, self-control, and better judgment.

    Education and treatment, not labeling and punishment, are more effective at helping adolescents grow into productive

    and crime-free adults.

    By imposing mandatory minimum sentences for everyone, regardless of age or other factors, this law also removes local

    judicial discretion that can more effectively respond to and address the risks and needs of individual offenders, those

    who have been harmed, and their communities. Mandatory minimum sentences also continue to put an unsustainable

    strain on prison populations and costs.

    This law was passed out of committee without any public hearings. As a result, the House has passed a bill that creates

    criminals of many teenagers, removes local judicial discretion, and adds to the overpopulation of prisons caused by

    mandatory sentences.

    We urge Congress to take the time to rewrite this law to more effectively target the egregious

    crime of child sexual abuse, enable local flexibility in sentencing, address the needs of victims, and avoid causing harm to

    teenagers who need help to grow into positive, contributing members of the community.

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