THE HONORABLE DEBORAH J. DANIELS
ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL
OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS
CONFERENCE ON CHILD AND FAMILY MALTREATMENT
PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN: NO JOB FOR THE LONE RANGER
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2004
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
Good morning. I'm very happy to be here today to talk about the critical issue of how best to protect our children from abuse, sexual exploitation, and other crime. As I noted in the title for this speech, protecting our children is no job for the lone ranger - in other words, no agency or individual can accomplish this critical function unilaterally. We all share this awesome responsibility, and we all must work together to prevent and respond to child abuse.
Having prosecuted these cases myself, I know how important it is to coordinate the various disciplines involved in child abuse investigations B not only to improve the investigative process, but, more importantly, to minimize trauma to the child victim. And I want to thank you all for the tremendous work you do every day on behalf of our nation's children and for your commitment to "Building A Safer World for Children."
Throughout my career as a prosecutor, I have worked toward this important goal. Back in the late 1980s, when I was chief counsel to the district attorney in Indianapolis, I headed a multi-disciplinary child protection team with members from criminal justice, medical, mental health, and child protective service agencies to improve our response in child abuse cases.
I also helped to establish a Child Advocacy Center in Indianapolis, based on the first such center in Huntsville, Alabama. As you may know, these centers work to meet the needs of abused children and their families in a warm, non-threatening environment. They're designed to help the child through the trauma of abuse, and avoid revictimization of the child occasioned by redundant interviews and inflexible, adult-oriented criminal justice and child protection systems.
As a happy by-product of this approach, we found that we also were able to develop better evidence to make a strong case against the perpetrator, helping to protect that child and perhaps other children from him in the future.
Now, as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs, I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue to work B at the federal level B to protect children and to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable for the terrible harm B physical and emotional B they inflict on their victims.
With funding from our Juvenile Justice Office, more than 400 Child Advocacy Centers now operate across the country based on the Huntsville model. At each center, law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, mental health, and health care agencies work together, under one roof, as a multi-disciplinary team, to respond in a coordinated way to child abuse.
OJP is also assisting in the work of the Interagency Task Force to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons, which the President established early in 2002 to coordinate the Administration's anti-trafficking initiatives.
The State Department estimates that, each year, between 800,000 and 900,000 human beings - most of them women and children - are bought, sold, or forced across the world's borders for sexual exploitation or forced labor. An estimated 18-to-20,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. And our National Institute of Justice estimates that more than 200,000 children are trafficked within the United States each year for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.
In addressing the United Nations General Assembly last September, the President called human trafficking "nothing less than a modern form of slavery, an unspeakable and unforgivable crime against the most vulnerable members of the global society."
Over the last three years, the President has signed into law three important pieces of legislation that bolster our national efforts against human trafficking.
In October, 2001, President Bush signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The Act provides a range of new tools for the protection of, and assistance to, victims of human trafficking. It expands the criminal laws and enhances the penalties available to federal investigators and prosecutors pursuing traffickers. And it expands U.S. international activities to prevent victims from being trafficked in the first place.
The second new law, the PROTECT Act, makes it a crime for any person to enter the United States, or for any citizen to travel abroad, for the purpose of sex tourism involving children.
And last month, the President signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which provides additional resources to assist the victims of human trafficking. It augments the legal tools that can be used against traffickers by empowering victims to bring federal civil suits against traffickers for actual and punitive damages. And it includes sex trafficking and forced labor as offenses under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization statute - known as the RICO statute. This gives prosecutors powerful new tools to bring traffickers to justice. Just as important, this new law encourages our nation's 21,000 state and local law enforcement agencies to participate in the detection and investigation of human trafficking cases.
These three new laws provide important resources for our efforts to combat human trafficking. For example, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act authorized a new unit in the State Department called the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to lead our international efforts to prevent trafficking.
The new law also authorized programs administered by the Department of Health and Human Services to help the victims of trafficking who are recovered here in the United States to rebuild their lives. These programs provide financial support, basic medical care, shelter, and counseling -- and include specialized foster care programs for children and therapeutic placements for children with special needs.
Our Office for Victims of Crime works closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure that victims of human trafficking receive services to help them recover from this devastating crime. OVC administers the Services for Trafficking Victims Discretionary Grant Program, which provides direct services, such as shelter, medical care, crisis counseling, legal assistance, and advocacy to assist victims from the time they are encountered by law enforcement until they are approved by HHS to receive other benefits.
Our Office for Victims of Crime has awarded almost $20 million over the last two years to help expand services for victims of human trafficking, to train law enforcement officers to recognize the needs of trafficking victims, and to improve the relationship between law enforcement and service providers as they work together on behalf of trafficking victims.
But the Justice Department's primary responsibility in this area is to prosecute the traffickers that prey on vulnerable women and children. Over the last two years, the Department has opened almost 130 investigations of human trafficking cases. So far, we've successfully prosecuted 79 traffickers.
Tragically, a number of the victims in these cases are children. Let me give you just three examples.
In a New Jersey case, teen-age girls were smuggled from Mexico into the United States with false promises of marriage, only to be forced into prostitution through threats and physical violence. Two defendants have pled guilty to conspiracy and sex trafficking charges and were sentenced to 17 years in prison. Cases against several other defendants are under way.
In Maryland, two defendants were convicted of holding a 14-year-old girl from Cameroon in involuntary servitude for several years. The couple had lured the girl to the United States with the false promise of enrolling her in school here. When the girl arrived, she was held captive in the couple's home, and forced through threats, sexual assaults, and physical abuse to work as their personal servant. The couple were sentenced to almost 10 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution to their victim.
And a defendant in a Nevada case was convicted of sex trafficking of children, transporting a minor for prostitution, money laundering, and interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. The defendant had imported juveniles cross-country by car to Indiana, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, where he supervised their prostitution activities and kept all of their earnings.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that, "Those who traffic in human lives treat people as easily expendable and highly profitable. But behind each dollar sign is a human tragedy." The Attorney General has made the pursuit and prosecution of human traffickers a high priority for the Department of Justice.
I want to talk to you, as well, about some of the other ways we're working at the Justice Department, through the Office of Justice Programs, to protect children.
Our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has launched a major new initiative to protect children involved in the terrible web of prostitution.
The National Center on Missing and Exploited Children calls child prostitution Athe most overlooked form of child abuse in the United States.@ Although statistical data are hard to find, one national prevention organization estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are sexually exploited through prostitution and pornography in the United States. And we know this is a problem of international dimension, with many more victims all across the globe.
In December, 2002, we convened a national summit to take a look at what we know about the problem of child prostitution and how we can improve our efforts to prevent this gross exploitation of our children, to provide protective services, and to prosecute offenders.
The summit brought together about 130 practitioners such as police officers, prosecutors, child protective service workers, mental health and medical professionals. Researchers, policy makers, service providers, advocates, and federal agency staff also participated. And a number of victims - survivors of exploitation -- shared with us their heart-rending stories of abuse.
Summit participants developed recommendations for action steps and policy considerations that we are using to design a national blueprint to address the commercial sexual exploitation of children and youth.
To follow up on these efforts, our OJP Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention held a national satellite teleconference on prostituted children and youth to discuss summit recommendations and to highlight ongoing community initiatives that address this problem. We're supporting two pilot programs B one in New York City and one in Atlanta - to develop a comprehensive approach and best practices for preventing the sexual exploitation of children and for treating child victims.
We're working with the Paul and Lisa Program to provide school-based prevention education programs for young people. After all, the best of all possible worlds is the prevention of such devastating victimization of our children. And we're funding the SAGE Project in San Francisco to provide services for women and children recovering from commercial sexual exploitation.
Our efforts are designed both to prevent and to treat the unimaginable abuse these children suffer, abuse that is often not fully appreciated by the public, the criminal justice system, and even service providers.
Too often, child prostitutes are perceived by the public as willing participants in their own victimization. Too often, they fall under the radar screen of victim assistance and child protective services. Too often, the criminal justice system treats their cases as simple nuisance crimes. Too often, the children sucked into this maelstrom are treated more harshly than their adult "handlers" - in the vernacular, their pimps - who get nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
Our initiative will help determine how we can effectively intervene with young people caught in the web of prostitution and sexual exploitation. It's critical that we gain their trust and provide the services so many of these victims desperately need B mental health counseling, medical care, substance abuse treatment, safe housing, education, and skills to enable them to support themselves without resorting to prostitution and other crime.
We're also working to protect children from sexual predators who find vulnerable children by using the Internet. A study by the University of New Hampshire found that one in five U.S. children between the ages of 10 and 17 has been the victim of an on-line sexual solicitation.
Our Juvenile Justice Office has provided funding to establish 40 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces throughout the country to combat Internet-based child sexual exploitation. To date, these Task Forces have arrested more than 1,500 pedophiles. Every such arrest means that untold numbers of innocent children will be protected from abuse at their hands.
The PROTECT Act, which I mentioned earlier, gave us important new tools to protect children from sexual predators. In addition to its provisions addressing human trafficking, the PROTECT Act strengthens child pornography laws and increases punishment for federal crimes against children. We're already seeing results from this strengthened authority.
Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors announced that they had broken up a global Internet child pornography ring based in Belarus and Latvia that officials estimate has tens of thousands of paying customers here in the United States. Three pornographers are awaiting extradition to this country. And 15 American customers have been arrested so far and charged with downloading graphic child pornography images onto their home computers. Armed with customers' credit card receipts, federal prosecutors are expecting many more arrests in this case.
The PROTECT Act also gives us another important tool to protect children from pedophiles, by authorizing judges to require extended supervision of sex offenders. Although extensive research has been done on the subject, no one has found a cure for pedophilia. No treatment program has been proved effective. We know that pedophiles don't "age out" of their predatory behavior. And, although the FBI is doing some very interesting work in this area, so far, we have no early warning system that we can employ to screen those who work with children to identify pedophiles. Our best protection is strict monitoring to prevent pedophiles from reoffending.
The PROTECT Act also authorized another critical weapon in our arsenal to prevent the abuse of children by sexual predators - AMBER Alert. For those of you who aren't familiar with this life-saving system, AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. It was created in 1996 as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered.
In the aftermath of this horrible crime, Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. Since that initial effort, broadcasters and law enforcement have teamed up in other jurisdictions across the country to implement AMBER Alert plans. The goal of AMBER Alert is to quickly galvanize the entire community to assist in the safe return of the child and the apprehension of the predator.
Our research has shown that the first few hours are critical in the safe recovery of an abducted child. Seventy four percent of children who are kidnapped and later found murdered are killed within the first three hours of being taken B and 99 percent are murdered within 24 hours. The urgent need for an immediate, rapid, efficient, and effective response in these cases could not be more clear.
It's critical that each community develop a rapid-response system, that we eliminate geographic gaps in our AMBER Alert network, and that we put in place a seamless network to increase the likelihood that abducted children will be recovered swiftly and safely.
We've made tremendous progress, in a very short time, toward reaching this goal. In October 2001, we had only 27 AMBER Alert programs in this country, only five of which were statewide. At that time, the programs had assisted in recovering 16 children.
A little more than two years later, these numbers have grown dramatically. At last count, 94 jurisdictions throughout the country had AMBER Alert programs in place. This total includes 47 statewide programs and 16 regional efforts. These efforts have resulted in the safe return of more than 120 abducted children. And it seems as though, almost every other day, we learn of another child who's been recovered with the help of an AMBER Alert.
Just a few weeks ago, an AMBER Alert led to the safe recovery of three young girls who had been abducted in Georgia by their mother's boyfriend. The man was suspected of killing the woman's parents, sister, and 10-month-old baby before kidnapping the three girls and leading police on a multi-state manhunt. An alert motorist heard an AMBER broadcast, spotted the suspect's car on a Georgia highway, and called police.
As the National AMBER Alert Coordinator, I've been working with law enforcement, transportation, broadcast, and other officials to implement a national strategy to help states develop AMBER Alert plans, and to coordinate and communicate with each other to increase the likelihood that abducted children will be recovered swiftly and safely.
Our goal is to have a seamless, nationwide AMBER Alert network in place by the end of this year to ensure that all children have the protection provided by AMBER Alert.
Through the initiatives I have discussed today, and other ongoing efforts, the Department of Justice will continue to work with all of you to protect our children and to prosecute those who prey upon them.
Returning to my original theme, every one of the initiatives I've described requires a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach in order to be effective. None of us can save these precious resources of our society alone. And, may we always remember, as Attorney General Ashcroft has frequently pointed out, children Amay make up 25 percent of society, but they make up 100 percent of the future."
Thank you, again, for all you are doing to protect, and build a safer future for, our children. And thank you for the honor of allowing me to speak to you today.