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General News

ATSA Position Statement re. HR 1761

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) makes the following statement regarding the May 25, 2017, passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of HR 1761, the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017:

We applaud the intent of this bill to strengthen statutes prohibiting the production and distribution of child pornography. Child sexual abuse is a horrific crime that can cause long-term trauma and harm to those who are abused. Unfortunately, this bill, as passed, creates the unintended consequence of criminalizing all transmissions of sexual images of minors. This includes sexting among consenting teenagers.

As written, this law creates an inflexible, one-size-fits-all system that would subject any teenager caught sending a sexually revealing photo of him- or herself, or viewing such a photo, to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Surveys of students1 consistently find that 20 to 50 percent of teens have exchanged sexually explicit text messages that include images. While this fact may make parents uncomfortable, we do not think most families would agree that consensual texting should result in teenagers going to prison and registering as sex offenders. This is not the way to address teenage misbehavior or help adolescents learn to make better decisions.
Adolescents are not mini-adults, and public safety generally is not improved by imposing harsh penalties on youth.

Teenagers and communities are best served by recognizing that adolescence is a time of change and growth, and that the most effective laws and policies focus on helping teens develop prosocial skills, self-control, and better judgment.

Education and treatment, not labeling and punishment, are more effective at helping adolescents grow into productive and crime-free adults. By imposing mandatory minimum sentences for everyone, regardless of age or other factors, this law also removes local judicial discretion that can more effectively respond to and address the risks and needs of individual offenders, those who have been harmed, and their communities. Mandatory minimum sentences also continue to put an unsustainable strain on prison populations and costs.

This law was passed out of committee without any public hearings. As a result, the House has passed a bill that creates criminals of many teenagers, removes local judicial discretion, and adds to the overpopulation of prisons caused by mandatory sentences. We urge Congress to take the time to rewrite this law to more effectively target the egregious crime of child sexual abuse, enable local flexibility in sentencing, address the needs of victims, and avoid causing harm to teenagers who need help to grow into positive, contributing members of the community.

1 See studies by Drexel University, National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Pew Internet and American Life Project, Cox Communications, CNN, MTV, and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Join the discussion

  1. Harry

    Cool! Let just put razor wire fence around every high school in the country and put guard towers up. In about 15 years ACSOL and like groups will be the largest action groups in the world.

    • Nicholas Maietta

      Not only razor wire, but also as soon as a child turns into an 18 year man or woman, they should be FORCEFULLY removed from high school and labeled a pervert for being a man or woman hanging out at a high school.

  2. G4Change

    This bill is scary and evil and takes this country one more step toward being no different than were Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It must be stopped.

  3. Nondescript

    Just read the bill. By amending the current law from ” intent” to “knowingly consent”, it seems like they are going after parents of teens who sext .

    [Any parent, legal guardian, or person having custody or control of a minor who, in a circumstance described in subsection (f), knowingly permits such minor to engage in, or to assist any other person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct knowing that a visual depiction of such conduct will be produced or transmitted shall be punished as provided under subsection (e)]

    This is a sneaky and scary piece of legislation.

    • 1984

      Scary? Ya, it is a nasty piece of work. What I find scarier is how these laws slide through. There is no accountability. No regard for collateral damage. I believe there should be some focus on developing a procedure for writing and introducing laws that force the use of empirical data in support of with expected results.
      There is a lot of willy nilly going on in law writing. Too many laws are written on a totally personal bias of the writer. Perhaps they have been compromised in some fashion. In such cases they are not qualified to write laws. The results: HR1761 What a bunch of crap. They can find the money to take on the added burden this will create but not for education. Our educational methods are not keeping up with technology along with the moral and ethic aspects of such technology.

    • newby

      think about it…..let it ride….

  4. mike r

    this is just another piece of legislation that shows how completely irrational law makers are when it comes to sex offender laws..more fodder for the for a real challenge to the registry as a whole..

  5. Dave

    Exchanging nudes by high school teens have been around since the first tech device was able to do so. In my time it was the Polaroid. Even comedy teen movies through out the decades have had them in many comical scenes. Apart from other stuff.

    Maybe they should say what they really want to do which is ban sex by anyone all together. No more sex in the U.S., bunch of hypocritical prudes.

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