Congressmen Mo Brooks and Barry Moore were among the 28 Republican lawmakers on Thursday to vote against a measure seeking to amend how the Federal Bureau of Investigations handles sex abuse cases involving children.
Both Brook’s and Moore’s offices did not respond to requests for comment on their decision to vote against the measure.
The largely bipartisan effort passed the U.S. House of Representatives 385-28 after approval in the U.S. Senate last Tuesday. The legislation, titled the Respect for Child Survivors Act, was crafted largely as a response to the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal involving former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry and the ensuing investigation by the FBI.
In September 2021, four American gymnasts, including seven-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles and silver medalist McKayla Maroney, shared harrowing details of how the FBI mismanaged the investigation into Nassar and fabricated statements directed towards them.
“The FBI has a sworn obligation to protect victims who report child abuse, and that extends to agents’ interviews with vulnerable child witnesses,” said U.S Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the principal sponsor of the legislation, in a statement released on Thursday. “This legislation requires the FBI to include trauma-informed experts in interviews with victims to ensure they are not re-traumatized during the interview process, and I urge President Biden to swiftly sign it into law.”
The act would require the FBI to use “multidisciplinary teams” in the investigation of child sexual abuse or exploitation crimes, even if the victim is no longer a child at the time of the investigation. Interviews with victims would be conducted by “trauma-informed experts,” including mental health professionals, medical personnel, family advocacy case workers, child advocacy center personnel, and prosecutors.
The measure seeks to prevent re-traumatizing victims of sexual abuse or exploitation and would allow investigations to be reviewed by these multidisciplinary teams to “share information about case progress, address any investigative or prosecutorial barriers, and ensure victims receive support and needed treatment,” according to Sen. Cornyn’s office.
The bill also provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers, which organize the treatment, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases, according to Sen. Cornyn’s office.
This legislation will help protect children who have been abused, bring their abusers to justice, and supply resources so that Children’s Advocacy Centers can provide a safe and supportive place for survivors of child abuse,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Vermont, who is a cosponsor of the bill, in a statement on Thursday. “It also supports members of law enforcement so they can conduct investigations faster, more efficiently, and at lower cost.”
The bill now goes to the White House for the president’s signature.