RICHMOND At 13, Alicia Kozakiewicz was kidnapped and tortured by a man she met through the Internet.
Today, Kozakiewicz is a college sophomore who lobbies the federal and Virginia governments to increase funding to fight sexual predators. This General Assembly session, she supports House Bill 1189, which would increase funding to fight child exploitation in Virginia. The bills sponsor is Delegate Brian J. Moran, D-Alexandria.
With increased Internet access and increasing use, were inviting these child sex predators into our homes, Moran said in a telephone interview. It is an expanding problem, and the police need additional resources to investigate, arrest and prosecute these people.
However, the House Appropriations Committee tabled HB 1189 before the General Assemblys crossover day this past Tuesday,
On crossover day, each General Assembly chamber must finish work on its own bills. Normally, because the House did not approve HB 1189 by this deadline, the bill would be considered dead for this years session. But Moran said he still is negotiating with the committee, and he hopes to obtain at least partial funding.
As long as the session is still going on, Im not going to give up, Moran said.
HB 1189 asked for about $32 million in funds to combat child exploitation. Even though the appropriations committee said the budget did not have the money to increase funding, Moran said he will request prioritization for his legislation.
If they (the committee) would even just fund part at this point it would be significant, Moran said.
Moran said he sponsored the bill because, as a former lawyer, he knows what it takes to prosecute criminals.
In a telephone interview, Kozakiewicz said it is difficult but worthwhile to speak about what happened to her. In addition to lobbying for legislation, she speaks to children about the potential dangers of Internet use.
Its a very hard thing to do, but its something that needs to be done, Kozakiewicz said. Somebody has to do it.
The man who abducted Kozakiewicz six years ago posed as a 14-year-old girl on the Internet, according to news reports of Kozakiewiczs congressional testimony.
Kozakiewicz agreed to meet this girl, whom she thought was her friend. However, when she left her house on New Years Day in 2002, 38-year-old Scott Tyree was waiting for her instead.
Tyree abducted Kozakiewicz and brought her to his townhouse in Herndon, Va. It took the FBI four days to find Kozakiewicz. During that time, she was raped, tortured and chained in a basement bedroom. Tyree currently is serving a 19-year federal-prison sentence.
Grier Weeks, executive director of the National Association to Protect Children, also has lobbied for the legislation. According to the groups Web site, PROTECT is a membership association that lobbies for legislation aiming to protect children from neglect and abuse.
In a telephone interview, Weeks said the technology exists to assist police in finding predators.
Law enforcement and task forces in Virginia literally have the ability right now to go online and watch child pornographers in real time distributing child porn, he said.
Weeks said child pornography not only includes pictures of teenagers who look like adults, but also can involve young children and can be violent. Potentially, thousands of children are being victimized in the commonwealth, Weeks said, and legislators need to provide police with the necessary resources required to save these children.
A decision not to fund this bill properly is a decision to leave these kids out there, Weeks said.
Kozakiewicz said she currently is communicating with the committee and will continue to try to get this legislation passed.
I will do anything in my power to help this go through, she said.