RAINN Statement to Senate Judiciary Committee Ahead of Hearing on the FBI’s Response to Larry Nassar

As the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 15 heard from brave witnesses including gymnasts Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, and McKayla Maroney in a hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) handling of the Larry Nassar case, RAINN and 12 other organizations urged the committee members to take action to rescue children experiencing abuse and prevent their retraumatization during the investigative process.

According to a recent Department of Justice (DOJ) report, 70 or more young athletes were sexually abused by Nassar between July 2015, when USA Gymnastics first reported allegations about Nassar to the Indianapolis Field Office, and September 2016, when Nassar’s residence was searched.

In addition to these alarming findings from the DOJ Office of the Inspector General, RAINN and the groups expressed larger concerns about the FBI’s procedures for investigating cases of child sexual abuse (CSA), especially when they also involve child sexual abuse material (CSAM), offenses (legally referred to as “child pornography”), as was the case in the Nassar investigation.

Nassar possessed more than 37,000 images of CSAM and sexually abused at least 115 victims. This is consistent with studies that have shown a significant link between offenders who possess child sexual abuse imagery and those who commit contact sexual offenses. According to multiple studies, between 2006 and 2015, the rate of contact offending for child sexual abuse material possessors was between 55 and 85%.

Hundreds of thousands of leads are currently sitting in law enforcement databases of offenders across the U.S., much like Nassar, who are trading images and likely to be committing hands-on offenses. Less than 7% of these cases are being actively investigated.

While law enforcement agencies have access to multiple undercover proactive databases, which have the ability to focus on these offenders, hundreds of thousands of these suspect leads are not being worked due to lack of resources and prioritization of these leads.

RAINN urged the following reforms to ensure that victims are protected:

  • Establish an imminent harm standard for federal law enforcement agencies investigating cases of child sexual abuse and child sexual abuse material crimes.
  • Prohibit federal law enforcement officers from showing victims of child sexual abuse images or videos of their abuse to prompt disclosures. Should a victim wish to view their imagery, they are guaranteed that right under § 18 U.S.C. 3509(m)(3).
  • Add 34 U.S.C § 20341 and 18 U.S.C. § 2258 as predicate offenses to Masha’s Law to allows survivors of child sexual abuse to sue individuals who had knowledge of their abuse and failed to report it to law enforcement.
  • Fully fund the ICAC Task Forces under the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008. Direct the DOJ to prioritize suspect leads in undercover, proactive law enforcement databases which have a high correlation with contact offending, and increase spending for federal agencies to identify and rescue children who are likely languishing in abusive situations.

We cannot allow these children to continue to experience harm when we know we have the means to identify them and rescue them. We commend the survivors of Nassar's abuse for speaking out and we urge the Judiciary Committee to support these reforms to help rescue as many children as possible, as quickly as possible.

You can read the full statement here.