WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Ted Poe (Texas) and Jim Costa (Calif.), co-founders and co-chairs of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus , and U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Chris Coons (Del.), co-chairs of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, today introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA). The VOCAA provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers that serve child victims and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable. Poe, Costa, Blunt, and Coons, introduced similar legislation, which was signed into law in 2014, to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Program through 2018.
“Each year thousands of children are subjected to an unthinkable crime- child abuse,” said Poe. “Our Children Advocacy Centers, like the one in Houston, Texas, do important work to expedite the prosecution of offenders, reduce violent encounters, and improve safety in communities across the country. This legislation ensures that those who are advocating for and protecting our children from the atrocities of abuse have the necessary resources to do their job. We must do all that we can to make sure innocent young Americans are protected from evildoers who wish to do them harm.”
“The Children Advocacy Centers in the San Joaquin Valley have been crucial in helping victims and survivors of child abuse heal,” said Costa. “The Victims of Child Abuse Act reauthorization bill builds on the demonstrated success of the multi-disciplinary Child Advocacy Center model, which will hopefully allow us to serve even more child abuse victims. Victims and survivors of child abuse are some of the most vulnerable in society. All of these kids deserve our care and support as they begin to heal.”
“In 2017, our state’s 22 child advocacy centers provided a safe haven to more than 8,500 of Missouri’s most vulnerable children,” said Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will ensure Child Advocacy Centers and law enforcement have the resources they need to coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases. I urge my colleagues to support the vital role these centers play in keeping kids safe and holding abusers accountable by passing this bipartisan commonsense bill.”
“When a child is the victim of physical or sexual abuse, his or her life will never be the same,” said Coons. “Seeking justice should be a part of the healing process – not a source of further trauma. Children’s Advocacy Centers provide a safe, supportive space for young victims and help law enforcement officers bring perpetrators to justice faster, more effectively, and at a lower cost. These facilities are a critical asset to law enforcement, to our criminal justice system, and, most importantly, to the children in our community who have been the victims of truly horrific crimes. I thank my colleagues for working with me to ensure they can continue to serve children in need.”
Children’s Advocacy Centers employ a multi-disciplinary team of trained professionals to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been victims of abuse. These interviews are designed to be admissible in court while also preventing children from being re-traumatized by having to tell their accounts multiple times. Use of Children’s Advocacy Centers leads to faster criminal charging decisions in sexual abuse cases, increased felony prosecutions of child sexual abuse, and lower average per-case costs.
In addition to Blunt and Coons, original Senate cosponsors include U.S. Senators Todd Young (Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Bob Casey (Pa.), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). And, in addition to Poe and Costa, original House cosponsors include Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Bruce Poliquin (Maine), Anthony Brown (Md.), Eric Swalwell (Calif.), Luke Messer (Ind.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), Ann Kuster (N.H.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Ann Wagner (Mo.), Theodore Deutch (Fla.), and Debbie Dingell (Mich.).
The bill has garnered widespread support from the nation’s top advocacy groups:
“As the national association and accrediting body for Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), National Children’s Alliance not only thanks Senator Blunt, Senator Coons, Representative Ted Poe, and Representative Jim Costa for their leadership in introducing the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018, but also in leading the charge for CACs on Capitol Hill,” said Teresa Huizar, Executive Director, National Children’s Alliance. “This critical piece of legislation is the corner stone of the CAC movement, and is the only federal program solely dedicated to developing CACs and improving the services provided to kids that have been abused. By reauthorizing and updating the Act, Congress once again demonstrates it believes and values the effectiveness of the CAC model in helping abused children. We are proud to join Senator Blunt, Senator Coons, Representative Poe, and Representative Costa in championing this bill and urge its swift passage.”
“While many efforts have improved children’s lives here in the United States, child abuse and neglect including the sexual abuse of children is still a national issue where more can and should be done,” said David LaBahn, President, National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA). “On behalf of APA, we applaud Senators Blunt and Coons and Representatives Poe and Costa for their willingness to introduce legislation to re-authorize the Victims of Child Abuse (VOCA) act with additional funding and objectives which will assist our front-line prosecutors in holding those who choose to harm children accountable for their actions.”
“The Victims of Child Abuse Act funds and supports Children’s Advocacy Centers, which are child-focused programs that employ a multidisciplinary team of trained professionals to work together efficiently and effectively to investigate, prosecute and treat child abuse,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “Children’s Advocacy Centers are vital to the protection and safety of abused children and are an important resource for law enforcement to ensure the perpetrators of these horrific crimes are held accountable and face justice. The Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act protects and enhances access to Children’s Advocacy Centers for children across the country and NAPO thanks Senators Roy Blunt and Chris Coons and Representatives Ted Poe and Jim Costa for their leadership in safeguarding these important programs.”
“On behalf of more than 3,000 elected sheriffs nationwide, NSA is proud to support the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018,” said Jonathan Thompson, Executive Director, National Sheriffs' Association. “This impactful legislation works in collaboration with our local law enforcement in order to better protect and secure our nation’s youth by providing funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers, which are invaluable in preventing more abuse and helping victims keep their privacy and dignity.”
“The Children’s Advocacy Centers funded by the Victims of Child Abuse Act provide a safe environment to interview children who have been victimize by an abuser,” Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police. “The program helps law enforcement collect evidence without causing these children any additional trauma. These Centers have a proven track record of success, enabling our officers to better protect our children.”
“The National District Attorneys Association applauds the introduction of the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act and the leadership of Senator Blunt, Senator Coons, Representative Poe, and Representative Costa on the issue,” said Nelson O. Bunn, Jr., Executive Director, National District Attorneys Association. “The reauthorization will continue to ensure resources are available for Children’s Advocacy Centers in support of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) model in which prosecutors and other practitioners are able to interview and support victims of child abuse in a safe environment. The legislation also provides for critical training and technical assistance to prosecutors in the field to investigate and prosecute these horrific cases.”
The bill is also backed by the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the North East Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, the Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, the Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.