Combat Online Predators Act
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 134, the Combat Online Predators Act.
This bill will give law enforcement officers additional tools to keep children safe from adults who stalk or target them both in person and online. This bill raises the maximum criminal penalty for stalking by an additional 5 years if the victim is a minor.
In addition, the bill directs the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to produce a report evaluating Federal, State, and local laws that relate to stalking and to describe best practices for enforcing those laws.
We must do everything in our power to protect the most vulnerable among us from digital predators. We must ensure that courts have the ability to sentence convicted stalkers to an appropriate prison term.
This bipartisan bill will help to protect our Nation's children from online predators, give their families peace of mind, and make our communities safer.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Miss GONZALEZ-COLON of Puerto Rico. Mr. Speaker, I think everything has been said. Everything now is online, and that is the reason this bill is so important as well. That is the reason why I rise in support of S. 134, the Combat Online Predators Act.
I am a proud cosponsor of the House companion bill, H.R. 4203, which was introduced by my good friends, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick and Stephanie Murphy.
I think this legislation is straightforward. It increased the maximum prison term for a stalking offense by 5 additional years if the victim is under age 18. Additionally, the Attorney General must issue a report on the best practices for the enforcement of Federal, State, local, and Tribal stalking laws as well.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, during a 12-month period, an estimated 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older are victims of stalking. Overall, 7.5 million people across the Nation reported being affected by these, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime and sponsored by the Office of Violence Against Women.
The same study shows 46 percent of the stalking victims experienced at least one unwanted contact per week, and 11 percent of the victims say they have been stalked for 5 years or more.
Approximately one in four stalking victims reported some form of cyberstalking. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 83 percent of victims reported that they received emails from their stalkers, while 35 percent reported receiving instant messaging.
In addition to stalking, every jurisdiction in the U.S. has laws addressing electronic harassment, and Federal law also criminalizes the use of technology in stalking.
Puerto Rico has recently taken steps to enact a special leave policy for those who are victims of crimes, such as gender-based crimes, abuse, harassment, and felony stalking. The special leave law provides up to 15 days annually where an employee is able to address crimes through legal means to ensure that victims are able to seek the proper resources necessary to achieve justice.
While Puerto Rico may lead in terms of supporting those afflicted by these crimes, justice must be severe for those who prey on the most vulnerable among us.
Again, I thank Representatives Fitzpatrick and Murphy for leading the House version of this legislation, and, of course, the Senate for passing this bill. That is the reason I urge my colleagues to support S. 134.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. ARMSTRONG. Mr. Speaker, technology has improved our lives in a myriad of ways, but it has also given bad actors more tools and, in many instances, stalkers can victimize their targets without ever leaving their home and a victim can often feel like they have nowhere to escape.
I applaud the work of Senator Toomey and Congressman Fitzpatrick, who sponsored the House companion to this bill on this important legislation.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT