A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Governor signs bills to protect children from abuse, declares April Child Abuse Prevention Month


Gov. Andy Beshear this week signed House Bill 207, which would criminalize owning or selling child sex dolls and make it illegal to use artificial intelligence to generate child sexual abuse materials, including creating deep fake images that use real children’s likeness.

It is one of four bills aimed at preventing abuse and protecting children

HB 207 was sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Dietz, R-Edgewood.
 
The legislation is heralded as groundbreaking by Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky Executive Director, Jill Seyfred.

“Our partnership with the KY State Police and the Attorney General’s Office in working with Rep. Dietz to get this bill across the finish line will prove to save countless children from on-line victimization. We know lives will be saved because of the passage of this Bill,” Seyfred said.
 
The bill defines a child sex dolls as a “doll, mannequin or robot that is intended for sexual stimulation or gratification and that has the features of, or has features that resemble those of, a minor.”

Making the possession of these dolls illegal in the Commonwealth would allow law enforcement to use them as probable cause to search for additional evidence of child sexual abuse.
 
“Kentucky State Police prioritizes the protection and safety of Kentucky’s most vulnerable population – our children, and this means we must stop every child predator from accessing and producing child sexual abuse materials,” said Kentucky State Police Commissioner Phillip Burnett, Jr.

“Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky has been a tremendous law enforcement partner and by working together on getting this bill passed we will cut off another way for child predators to capitalize on and harm Kentucky’s children. Every day Kentucky continues to be a national leader in public safety, and we are laser focused on addressing current and future public safety needs, particularly as technology advances.”

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky Board Member Jeremy Murrell, deputy commissioner for counter exploitation in the attorney general’s office, testified before the House Committee on in January.
 
“We believe this legislation closes a current loophole in dealing with child sex dolls,” said Murrell. “It also gives prosecutors and law enforcement officers new tools to deal with a new trend in child sexual abuse materials. . .Evidence shows that people who use these sex dolls go on to be hands-on offenders, if they haven’t done so already.”

“Good and evil exist in the world. I’m grateful to the members of our General Assembly who understand that reality and gave us in law enforcement the tools to protect our children from exploitation. Through the leadership of Rep. Dietz, Sen. McDaniel and Commonwealth’s Attorney Sanders, we are making a strong statement that predators will be held accountable for their actions and find no place to hide in Kentucky,” said Attorney General Russell Coleman.

 

In addition to making the passage of HB 207 one of his priorities in this legislative session, Attorney General Coleman also established the first-ever Deputy Commissioner for Counter Exploitation in the Attorney General’s Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI). General Coleman appointed Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky board member Jeremy Murrell to this leadership position to use Detective Murrell’s considerable experience to support law enforcement in protecting Kentucky children.
 
Offenders are using text prompts to create child sexual abuse materials via easily accessible artificial intelligence programs, testified Lieutenant Mike Bowling, commander of the Kentucky State Police Electronic Crime Branch and the statewide Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Additionally, artificial intelligence allows offenders to create deep fake child sexual abuse materials using images of real children.
 
“This is called ‘nudifying’ an image,” said Bowling. “Known victims are being revictimized by taking existing images and creating a new series of images. There is a psychological impact of having their images passed around.”

Three other bills

Also this week, the Governor declared April Child Abuse Prevention Month and signed three other bills to help protect children from abuse.

• Senate Bill 299 strengthens reporting requirements when Kentuckians have reason to believe a child has been abused, neglected, or is a victim of human trafficking.

• House Bill 78, sponsored by Rep. Kim Banta of Ft. Mitchell, clarifies the legal definition of incest to make sure more people are protected from this crime.

The bill “provides law enforcement and criminal justice system the tools it needs to protect our most vulnerable from sexual abuse,” said Banta.

• Senate Bill 80 ensures that registered sex offenders can’t come within 1,000 feet of a high school, middle school, elementary school, preschool, publicly owned or leased playground, or licensed day care facility.

Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky/Office of the Governor


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