Gonzales, Costa Introduce Bill to Protect the Rights of Child Abuse Victims During Federal Investigations
U.S. Representatives Tony Gonzales (TX-23) and Jim Costa (CA-16) introduced bipartisan legislation to formalize a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) to implement the use of multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) in child sexual abuse and exploitation cases.
“When victims of sexual assault come forward, it can be difficult and in some cases traumatizing,” said Gonzales. “That’s why it is important to ensure law enforcement agents treat victim interviews with the utmost compassion, while conducting these critical investigations. I am proud to introduce this bicameral, bipartisan legislation to ensure these cases are handled with the utmost professionalism and care.”
“For far too long, we have seen how mishandled cases leave victims and survivors further traumatized. We must enact reforms to improve the facilitation of these critical investigations while still protecting child survivors,” said Costa. “That is why I am proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would formalize the partnership between the FBI and Children's Advocacy Centers to prevent investigative barriers and ensure survivors receive the care and support they deserve.”
In 2015, three gymnasts brought formal complaints to the Indianapolis FBI field office asserting that Larry Nassar had molested them and hundreds of young women in his role as the USA Gymnastics' national medical coordinator and physician. A report from the Inspector General of the U.S. Justice Department revealed that the FBI poorly handled this case and victims were unfairly treated by FBI personnel who interviewed them during the process.
This legislation would require the FBI to use multidisciplinary teams when investigating child sexual abuse and exploitation cases, including in situations where the interviewed victim is now an adult. Multidisciplinary teams would be composed of appropriate investigative personnel, mental health professionals, medical personnel, family advocacy case workers, child advocacy center personnel, and prosecutors.
Individuals must have appropriate expertise in their field and will be required to undertake training as necessary to maintain their expertise. The use of these teams would prevent further traumatizing victims. The information sharing and case review provisions would ensure accountability, so cases are not mishandled in the future.
The full text of the bill is available here.