Reschenthaler reaches across aisle in both houses to propose PROTECT Our Children Act

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation cosponsored on Sept. 13 by U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) would reauthorize the national Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program through fiscal year 2024.

“I witnessed the horrific impact of child sexual abuse as a district judge,” Rep. Reschenthaler said. “The ICAC Task Force Program aids federal, state, and local law enforcement in stopping those who prey on our nation’s children. I’m proud to help the ICAC continue their important work of identifying and prosecuting dangerous criminals.” 

The congressman introduced the Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology to Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children Act of 2022, H.R. 8816 — also known as the PROTECT Our Children Act — with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) on Sept. 13 introduced the same-named S. 4834 in their chamber.

If enacted, the measure also would reauthorize the national ICAC data system through 2024, allowing the network of 61 child exploitation task forces to continue their work against predators and sex-traffickers, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Reschenthaler’s office. 

Via forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, and community education, the ICAC program helps state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and Internet crimes against children, according to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which created the program.

OJJDP says the ICAC program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child sexual abuse images available electronically, and heightened online activity by predators seeking unsupervised contact with potential underage victims. 

“In light of a rapidly changing technological environment, we must continue to make the internet a safe space for all children and guard against those who seek to exploit them,” said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. “In just 14 years, ICAC arrests have gone from 2,500 a year nationwide to over 10,400 in 2021 alone. I am proud to introduce legislation that reaffirms our commitment to America’s children and builds on the original PROTECT Act that I authored over a decade ago.”

The PROTECT Our Children Act is endorsed by several organizations: the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Rape and Violence End Now, Rights 4 Girls, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and the National District Attorneys Association.