Congress Takes on Fight to Stop Sex Crimes

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 10:10 PM

By Jason Devaney

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Members of Congress are beginning to focus on curbing sex crimes on college campuses and on child and human trafficking as they pull back from the fight to stop sexual assaults in the military.

The New York Times reports that the White House plans to release recommendations on how to stop sexual assaults from happening on college campuses. Members of the legislative branch, including New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, have offered suggestions on dealing with the disturbing trend.

"It is simply unacceptable that going to college should increase your chance of being sexually assaulted," Gillibrand told The Times.

Several high-profile cases, including the Jerry Sandusky affair at Penn State, spurred Congress' interest in the issue.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have offered bills. Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey teamed with West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III on a bill that proposes to enhance background checks on potential school employees. The law would also stop the practice of passing child molesters from school to school.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch has offered legislation to help stop sex trafficking in the foster care system.

"I am not sure Congress really knew how bad this problem is," said Hatch, who told the Times he learned about the problem after hearing a victim testify in a Senate hearing.

"To me, it was heart-wrenching," Hatch said of hearing the testimony.

Other senators are focusing their efforts on curbing human trafficking across U.S. borders.

"There has been a lot of attention in the last couple of years on child abuse and exploitation," law professor Mary G. Leary told the Times. "But what is different about the most recent wave is this focus on the institutional role. With the Sandusky matter, part of what horrified Americans was the institutional response, and that was true again with the military institutional response."

Last week, it was reported that the military would conduct a full-scale review of its justice system after Congress cried foul over how the armed forces had been handling sexual assaults.

"It's been over 30 years since the military code of justice was reviewed. It's simply time," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale told Stars and Stripes. "Sexual assault will certainly be part of the compendium of issues that will be looked at, but it's by no means the sole issue."

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