(Washington, D.C.) Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers today urged members of the House Judiciary Committee to pass legislation she introduced earlier this year that will impose mandatory penalties for registered sex offenders who knowingly access an Internet website with the intent to communicate with an unsuspecting child.
“This year I became a mother, and like every parent, it is important for me to keep my child safe as he grows up,” said McMorris Rodgers. “It is alarming that sites like Facebook and MySpace are being used by thousands of registered sex offenders as a way to prey on innocent children. We need to pass this legislation to send a clear message to sex offenders that if they use these Internet sites to contact children they will go to jail.”
McMorris Rodgers testified on her bill, H.R. 3144, the Internet Sex Offender Prohibition Act of 2007, during a Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing on Sex Crimes and the Internet: Danger is Just a Click Away. The bill would amend Section 2251 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code to include a mandatory penalty of 5 to 20 years in prison for any individual required to register as a sex offender who knowingly access an Internet website with the intent to communicate with an unsuspecting child under the age of 18.
The Associated Press recently reported that MySpace.com has identified over 29,000 sex offenders with profiles on their site. This is four times the number that was reported by the company two months ago. According the FBI, as many as 50,000 child predators are prowling the Internet, and one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 will receive a sexual solicitation online during their lifetime.
“Nearly 4,200 children in Spokane County were victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect in 2005,” continued McMorris Rodgers. “We must not only focus on keeping children safe from strangers they meet on the street, but protecting them from strangers they meet online.”
Washington state’s Attorney General, Rob McKenna, recently launched the Youth Internet Safety Task Force to address issues of predation, while at the same time devising ways to combat the proliferation of child pornography and ultimately the further sexual exploitation and victimization of our children.