Shaheen Leads NH Delegation in Announcing Nearly $1.5 Million Heading to UNH to Support Research to Address Trauma Faced by Child Survivors of Sexual Exploitation

October 26, 2021

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice (DOJ), announced with U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Representatives Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Chris Pappas (NH-01) that the University of New Hampshire (UNH) will receive $1,491,313 to fund a study to address trauma faced by child survivors of sexual exploitation. Specifically, the study will focus on further understanding the impact of abuse on child survivors of child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM), also known as child pornography, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of current trauma treatment methods used by health care providers, law enforcement personnel and forensic interviewers. The data produced by the study will bolster efforts to address trauma experienced by survivors and allow law enforcement and policymakers to better understand and respond to the creation and dissemination of CSEM. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Shaheen fought to secure funding for this UNH study in government funding legislation that was passed by Congress and signed into law last December.

“The sexual exploitation of children is a heinous crime that demands a whole-of-government response to ensure perpetrators face the full force of the law and survivors have support to heal and seek justice,” said Senator Shaheen. “This funding will support UNH’s critical research to further understand the far-reaching impact of trauma experienced by child survivors of sexual exploitation and inform efforts to support and treat survivors. We must all do our part to protect children from exploitation and abuse, and this will continue to be a top priority for me as the Chair of the subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice and provides crucial resources to law enforcement agencies in New Hampshire and across the country.”

“The exploitation of children online is a heinous crime that deeply impacts victims for years,” Senator Hassan said. “This federal funding to UNH will help uncover the long-term impacts of abuse and better ensure that our justice system is equipped to support survivors. There is no place in our society for criminals who threaten or exploit the safety and well-being of children and I will continue to make sure that we hold any perpetuators fully accountable. This funding is one step forward in our fight for justice for children.”

“The trauma endured by survivors of child sexual exploitation is a heavy weight that should never be shouldered alone, and perpetrators of these horrific crimes must be held accountable for their actions,” said Representative Kuster, founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence. “This federal funding for the University of New Hampshire will help health care providers, law enforcement, and lawmakers further understand the impact of these heinous crimes, address trauma, and prevent child sexual exploitation. I will continue working to support survivors and protect children in New Hampshire and across the country.”

“This research will help law enforcement and professionals learn how to best reduce trauma for child victims of sexual exploitation, and I’m pleased the University of New Hampshire is receiving significant federal funding to support this work,” said Representative Pappas. “These federal funds will help bring more tools to our communities to mitigate trauma and ensure our kids have bright futures.”

“This study will improve knowledge about the impact on children who are victims of crimes involving child sexual exploitation material, as well as the impact from the investigation and justice system management of these cases,” said Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD, Research Associate Professor of Psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.

“Children who have been exploited by offenders who manufacture, post or trade sexually explicit images of them suffer not only from their abuse and exploitation, but also from the knowledge that in most cases those images cannot be recovered and are shared by offenders around the world for many years. This study will help us understand how we can improve our response to these crimes while at the same time providing victims with the support and services they need to not just survive but thrive as they move forward with their lives,” said Brad Russ, Executive Director at the National Criminal Justice Training Center of Fox Valley Technical College.

Senator Hassan joined a bipartisan group of Senators earlier this year in reintroducing the END Child Exploitation Act to extend the period of time that technology companies are required to preserve information about child sexual abuse images they report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).