Feb 22, 2023
A bipartisan bill created to address how the FBI handles child sexual abuse cases passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday. The bill, entitled the Respect for Child Survivors Act, was developed in response to the FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse investigation which revealed decades of crimes impacting young female athletes, many who competed for U.S.A. Gymnastics.
The bill will require the FBI to form multi-disciplinary teams to support sex abuse victims and their families in order to prevent re-traumatization from investigations and ensure cases are never dropped, according to a Newsweek report. Said teams will also investigate child sexual abuse, trafficking, and child abuse content and include “investigative personnel, mental health professionals, medical personnel, family advocacy workers, child advocacy workers, and prosecutors,” Newsweek confirmed.
The Respect for Child Survivors Act was led by Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Senator Cornyn’s office also confirmed the bill provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers which organize the treatment, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases.
The bill was co-sponsored by Democrat Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrat Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
The motion was passed with a total of 385 votes in favor of the bill. The vote breakdown by party included:
“I applaud Senator Cornyn’s leadership on this issue to correct an egregious wrong committed by certain FBI agents regarding their treatment of victims of sexual abuse,” Senator Lindsey Graham said. “Requiring the FBI to use appropriate, tried and true methods to interview child victims will help ensure the FBI’s failure in the Nassar case doesn’t happen again. This legislation will make it clear that we expect better.”
“We have a duty to ensure that survivors and witnesses to sexual assault are heard and respected, especially when they come forward to law enforcement to report abuse,” said Senator Chris Coons. “Unfortunately, mishandled or repeated interviews can too often retraumatize survivors. The bipartisan, bicameral Respect for Child Survivors Act will reduce poorly conducted interviews during investigations of child abuse and sexual exploitation by requiring the FBI to use multidisciplinary teams of trained professionals. I’m proud to see this head to the President’s desk for signature, and I hope it will protect survivors and encourage more to come forward.”
“The FBI has a sworn obligation to protect victims who report child abuse, and that extends to agents’ interviews with vulnerable child witnesses,” added Senator Cornyn. “This legislation requires the FBI to include trauma-informed experts in interviews with victims to ensure they are not retraumatized during the interview process, and I urge President Biden to swiftly sign it into law.”
“As we work to support survivors of child sexual abuse and trafficking, we need to provide law enforcement with the training and skills they need to investigate these crimes and help victims,” Senator Amy Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation will ensure law enforcement officers can partner with child advocacy centers to use the most effective techniques when conducting these critical investigations.”
The bill was supported by multiple child advocacy nonprofits and think tanks, including:
Despite the bill’s goal of protecting survivors of child sexual abuse and ensuring that investigations by federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI are conducted properly, 28 Republican members of the House voted against it.
The 28 Republicans who voted against the Respect for Child Survivors Act include:
18 Representatives did not vote on the Respect for Child Survivors Act. The full listing of votes cast by the various U.S. Representatives can be found here.
Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who has been under federal investigation by the Department of Justice in a case involving allegations of sex trafficking of a minor, voted in favor of the bill. In July, Gaetz was among 20 Republicans who voted against an anti-human trafficking bill.
An article by Kylie Cheung for Jezebel noted that two Representatives who have been particularly vocal about conspiracy theories related to LGBTQ adults as “innate child sexual predators” or “groomers” also voted against the Respect for Child Survivors Act.
Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado voted against the bill. The Jezebel article added that Boebert’s husband was jailed for exposing himself to teens in a bowling alley a few years ago.
Dordulian Law Group’s founder and former sex crimes prosecutor, Sam Dordulian, applauded the passage of the Child Survivors Act while noting the unfortunate reality of partisan politics, particularly when the issue involves protecting children.
“This important legislation will hopefully ensure that when child survivors come forward and report predators, their allegations are taken seriously and investigations by the FBI are conducted swiftly and thoroughly,” Dordulian said. “It’s refreshing to see the largely bipartisan support for such a measure, but the fact that anyone from either political party would vote against legislation that is intended to protect child survivors of sexual abuse is truly baffling to me.”
“It’s unfortunate, because this is the type of issue that used to transcend partisanship,” Dordulian added.
The Child Survivors Act now goes to the White House for the president’s signature.
A statement from U.S. Representative Chris Coons confirmed that the bill was a direct response to the FBI’s gross mishandling of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
“During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar investigation last year, retired gymnast and survivor McKayla Maroney shared striking testimony of how she was treated by the FBI personnel who interviewed her. This legislation was formulated with input from child welfare groups to address the mistreatment of child witnesses like those described during that hearing,” the statement indicated.
Under the new legislation:
A new federal bill signed into law this year – the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 – officially removes the federal statute of limitations to file a civil action for minor victims of:
Under the new federal bill, survivors of child sexual abuse may immediately file civil claims to recover financial damages awards, regardless of how long ago the crimes occurred.
For more information on the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022, please visit Dordulian Law Group’s recent blog post.
Contact Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) experienced and proven California child sex abuse attorneys today for a free consultation at 818-322-4056. We help survivors across the nation secure the justice they deserve for childhood sexual abuse.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse often require years and even decades to properly process trauma before coming forward and reporting crimes. The timeline can vary on a case-by-case basis, with some victims choosing to never disclose their incidents.
If you experienced a sexual assault incident, don’t wait to file a claim. Contact our expert attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.
Some studies indicate that only one-third of childhood sexual abuse survivors disclose as children, while one-third decide to never disclose. The average age to disclose childhood sexual abuse is reportedly 52. The new S. 3103 Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act of 2022 is intended to help survivors obtain justice against their abusers for claims that would otherwise be barred under the statute of limitations.
Contact DLG’s Los Angeles, California, child sexual abuse lawyers today to learn more about your rights under the Eliminating Limits to Justice for Child Sex Abuse Victims Act.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.