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Statement by Senator Michael B. Enzi

For the Senate Committee on Banking at a hearing titled: "Combating Child Pornography by Eliminating Pornographers’ Access to the Financial Payment System."

Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding this important hearing today. Today’s hearing is an opportunity to discuss efforts to combat child pornography. Each year, thousands of children are exploited by photographing them and making those images and videos available to child predators. We need to stop these terrible crimes, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses with ideas about what can be done.

The sexual victimization of children is a tremendous problem in our nation, and unfortunately, the problem is more widespread than most recognize. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, statistics show that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys are sexually exploited before they reach adulthood. Although these abuses are so prevalent, less than 35% of those child sexual assaults are reported to authorities.

The abused children who are the victims of child pornography are harmed both mentally and physically. Physically, they can be molested or face exposure to sexually transmitted diseases. Although the physical traumas are problematic, many child victims struggle with the mental abuse for far longer. Victims of child pornography can often face depression, anger and feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. These feelings follow them into adulthood and forever alter their lives. In addition, because emotional scars are not as visible as physical wounds, they often go untreated.

Child pornography is illegal in all 50 states and most countries. Although the growth of the Internet has been beneficial in many ways, bad actors are using this information sharing tool to spread their filth. Unfortunately, the vastness of cyberspace often makes prosecution of these criminals difficult.

Congress has taken steps to combat child pornography, but our actions up to this point have not gone far enough. Earlier this year, the Senate passed and President Bush signed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 into law. This legislation included provisions requiring producers of sexually explicit material and simulated sexually explicit material to keep records of every performer’s name and date of birth. While ensuring that performers are of legal age, Congress and President Bush took one more step to protect the innocent.

In addition to this Act, there are a number of other ideas being discussed in Congress and within the Administration. The Department of Justice has sent proposals to the Hill to increase fines if an electronic communications service provider knowingly and willfully fails to report the presence of child pornography on their systems. In addition, Justice hopes to eliminate the practice of hiding terms in the website’s code so that the pornography site will come up on a search of the Internet. For example, some pornography website owners will place terms such as "Sesame Street" in the code. When someone searches on Google for the children’s show, the pornography website will also come up on the list of possible websites.

Many of the proposals attack the problem of child pornography with increased regulation of the Internet. There are many other ways that we prevent the exploitation of children. Today, we are here to examine the role of the financial industry can play in stopping child pornography and child pornographers. I am pleased that Chairman Shelby scheduled this hearing today to tackle this important issue through the Banking Committee.

I also applaud the efforts of the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography to wipe out commercial child pornography by 2008. They seek to do so by destroying the financial network of these criminals. This ambitious goal will take coordination of law enforcement, private industry, states and the federal government. I am committed to providing these individuals with the resources they need to eliminate and eradicate child pornography.

I look forward to learning about efforts that are currently underway and learning about what more can be done so that we can provide the resources to help law enforcement deal with this problem. This hearing will help lay the groundwork for legislative action as we all engage in the fight against child pornography.

Thank you again to Chairman Shelby for holding this hearing and to our distinguished panels for taking the time to testify today.