April 08, 2022

Senator Hirono, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Renew Protections for Child Abuse Victims

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introducing bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA). The law, first enacted in 1990, provides the only dedicated source of funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers, which bring together teams of law enforcement, medical personnel, and service providers to ensure the best outcome for child victims and help hold perpetrators responsible for their crimes. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ann Wagner (R-MO), and Debbie Lesko (R-AZ).

“Child abuse is abhorrent,” said Senator Hirono. “The Victims of Child Abuse Act helps ensure that victims get the support they need deserve and perpetrators are held accountable for these heinous crimes. As we have twice before, it is my hope we can reauthorize this important bill on a bipartisan basis to protect children in Hawaii and across our country.”

Senator Hirono has previously succeeded in reauthorizing the Victims of Child Abuse Act, first in 2014 and again in 2018. VOCAA programs are now set to expire next year without reauthorization, so it must again be extended by Congress.

One of VOCAA’s key components is to fund Children’s Advocacy Centers, which provide a skilled team of trained professionals to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been victims of abuse. Such interviews are intended to be used as evidence in court while also preventing children from being required to repeat their accounts multiple times. Children’s Advocacy Centers allow for faster criminal charging decisions in sexual abuse cases, increased felony prosecutions of child sexual abuse, and lower average case costs.

In addition to Senators Hirono, Coons and Blunt, cosponsors include Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Todd Young (R-IN), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Richard Burr (R-NC), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thomas Tillis (R-NC), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

The bill has garnered widespread support from law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, National District Attorneys Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Major County Sheriffs of America, Major Cities Chiefs Association, and Sergeants Benevolent Association NYPD.

The bill is also endorsed by child advocacy groups, including the National Children’s Alliance, National Children’s Advocacy Center, Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, and Southern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center.

The bill text is available here