Six years ago, Alicia Kozakiewicz says she was just a normal 13-year-old girl. That all changed on New Year's Day 2002. Today, she recounted for Congress how an online sexual predator befriended her in an Internet chat room, then kidnapped her, drove her across state lines and locked her in a cage in his basement, where he beat her, tortured her and raped her.
"I cry inside. I mourn for that child that was me. The child that was stolen from me. Make no mistake -- that child was murdered. I know now that some parts of me are forever there. The child that I was is still chained in that room, still suffering."
Kozakiewicz warned the House Judiciary Committee of the widespread dangers of Internet sex crimes.
"The boogey man is real. And he lives on the Net. He lived in my computer -- and he lives in yours," she said, looking at the lawmakers. "While you are sitting here, he is at home with your children."
Kozakiewicz was rescued by FBI agents. She is now a 19-year-old college sophomore. Scott Tyree of Herndon, Va., was convicted of the crime and is serving a 20-year prison sentence. Not only did he beat, torture and rape Kozakiewicz, he also posted online pictures of her taken while she was locked in his basement.
Committee members were urged by fellow lawmakers to take legislative action against online sex crimes.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., cited a "dearth of federal resources devoted to investigating and prosecuting child exploitation and crimes."
She cited Flint Waters of the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, telling the committee, "right now there are nearly 500,000 identified individuals in the United States trafficking child pornography on the Internet. Law enforcement knows who they are and where they are. What shocked me the most and what compelled me to get involved in this issue is that due to a lack of resources, law enforcement is investigating less than two percent of these known 500,000 individuals."
"Sometimes the problems we face as a Congress are extremely complex and other times the solutions are simple and right in front of our eyes," she said. "There is no mystery about what we need to do now to save thousands of children from abuse and exploitation."
Wasserman Schultz has introduced the Protect Our Children Act of 2007.
"The Internet has unfortunately become an easy avenue for predators to find unsuspecting victims," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. "That is why I have introduced legislation, the Sex Offender Internet Prohibition Act of 2007, which imposes mandatory penalties, five to 10 years in prison, for individuals who are required to register as sex offenders and knowingly access a Web site with the intent to communicate with an unsuspecting child. This bill sends a clear message to sex offenders that if they use these Internet sites to contact children, they will go to jail."
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., touted her bill, the Child Pornography Elimination Act of 2007.