National Legislation Timeline

Over the last few decades, the United States has been passing laws to prevent sexual crimes against children and child abduction while punishing those who have committed them.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. While children can be sexually victimized at any age, children are most vulnerable to child sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.

In addition to child sexual abuse, child abduction is also a terrifying experience that occurs far too often. According to the Polly Klaas Foundation, even though about 100 children (a fraction of 1%) are kidnapped each year by a total stranger, only about half of these 100 children come home.

With these alarming numbers, it is important to use legislation to create policies to keep track of former and present sexual offenders within the country to help keep citizens safe. Since the passing of the first national law in United States history to track sexual offenders, the amount of laws to fight against sex crimes and child abductions have increased. Below are a list of important laws that have been passed:

September 13, 1994
As the first national sex offender registry law, Jacob’s Law requires states to track sexual offenders by validating their place of residence annually for 10 years after being released into the community. Sexual offenders convicted of violent sex crimes must validate their residence quarterly for the rest of their lives. This was enforced in all 50 states.

February 8, 1996
The Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 was the first notable attempt by the United States Congress to put regulations on pornographic material on the internet. Fearing online predators, the law was designed to keep children from viewing indecent and obscene material on the internet.

May 17, 1996
Megan’s Law was signed into federal law by President Clinton. The law requires states to provided relevant information on the whereabouts of sex offenders in the community so that parents may protect their children.

October 3, 1996
The Pam Lyncher Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act was signed into law. The Act requires a registered sex offender who is moving to a new residence after being released from prison or being placed on parole, supervised release, or probation to inform state authorities within ten days of the move.

October 28, 2000
The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law. The act amended FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) to assure that educational institutions may give out information regarding sex offenders that they receive through State sex offender registration and community notification programs.

July 27, 2006
Adam’s Law was signed into law. The act was designed to organize sexual offenders into 3 tiers. Each tier is required to update their whereabouts within a certain time frame depending on which tier they belong to. The act also set a criteria for states and territories to follow when posting offender data to the internet.

November 6, 2006
Jessica’s Law was signed into law. Named after Jessica Lunsford, the act mandates a minimum sentence of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison for first-time child sex offenders. This bill shortens the address registry period to three days. In addition, the Act requires any person convicted of committing a sexual crime against a child under 13 years of age must be electronically monitored for the rest of their life.

May 25, 2009
Jenna’s Law was signed into law as the first child abuse prevention law in the U.S. requiring K-12 trainings for students, all school staff, and parents, addressing sexual abuse and other forms of mistreatment.

February 14, 2011
Illinois became the first state to pass Erin’s Law. The law requires that all public schools in the United States implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program to education students, school faculty and parents how to avoid sexual abuse and how to recognize the warning signs of child sexual abuse. As of April 2017, 30 states have passed Erin's Law while 18 more states are introducing the Law through 2017 and 2018.

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