Commentary: FOSTA a victory for victims, survivors of sex crimes

U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran

U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran

As a former law enforcement officer, I locked up sexual predators and sex traffickers who preyed on children and young men and women.

Seeing the harm these monsters caused in our communities is something I will never forget. As a member of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, I am continuing my work to protect our communities by finding bipartisan legislative solutions to prevent these crimes and punish those who commit them.

Last year, I was furious about the findings of both the Senate and Washington Post investigations into Backpage.com and their complicity in promoting illegal prostitution that often led to sex trafficking.

Following this development, I joined my colleagues as a co-sponsor of the bipartisan “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA), which passed the House and Senate and was just signed into law by President Trump on Wednesday, April 11.

This law is a victory for victims and survivors of sex crimes, their families, and the American people. It is an important first step in ending sex trafficking and protecting our daughters and sons from predators.

FOSTA gives federal and state prosecutors the tools they need to punish websites that facilitate sex trafficking, and allows victims and their families to seek justice in the courts.

Last year, following the news of the abuse of young athletes within USA Gymnastics, I introduced an amendment to the Protecting Young Victims of Sexual Abuse Act of 2017 to ensure victims and families have full information and resources available to them as they work to heal and move on from a traumatic attack. I was honored to have the broad support of the entire House of Representatives when they voted unanimously to pass my amendment.

Today, too many victims in rural and tribal communities struggle to access vital services. That is why I introduced the “Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment Act” to provide legal, medical, and counseling resources to women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.

This bill would ensure that survivors, no matter where they live, have access to necessary services as they recover and rebuild their lives.

According to the CDC, Arizona has the some of the highest rates of sexual violence among both women and men in the country, and the rate is even higher for Hispanic and Native American victims. Something must be done.

Over the past year, both in Arizona and in Washington, I have hosted and attended roundtables and hearings on sexual violence, rape kit backlogs, and law enforcement response.

It is clear that we need to focus on getting our law enforcement agencies and communities the tools they need to investigate and solve these crimes. That includes proper police training, rape kit testing supplies, and victim recovery resources.

I look forward to continuing these important discussions in every corner of our district.

The victims of sex crimes are our children, loved ones, and neighbors, and this can happen in any community. We have an obligation to give the next generation of Americans a safe place to grow and learn. It is imperative that we, as a nation, prioritize this issue.

U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran represents Arizona’s First Congressional District.

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