WASHINGTON — At least 50,0000 unknown children are being sexually exploited and there is a need to identify and rescue them, said former NFL player Tim Tebow to lawmakers during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. 

“Most of you came to Congress because you wanted to make the world better, you wanted to help people, you wanted to change things, ” said Tebow, chairman and founder of the Tim Tebow Foundation. “You can change the lives of tens of thousands of children right now.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said child sex abuse materials (CSAM) is a significant problem and is expanding in both the U.S. and other countries. The number of CSAM reports has increased from 3,000 in 1998 to 18.4 million in 2019. 

“The United States has a duty to protect our children from becoming the victims of these despicable acts,” he said. 

Tebow noted that members of international law enforcement from 18 countries convened a meeting in Lyon, France last year and found at least 50,000 children who were victims of abuse, of whom 316 were successfully identified. Their work showed that 84% of images depicted sexual abuse, 47% contained extreme abuse including rape, bondage, torture, defecation, and bestiality, and more than 60% of unidentified victims were under the age of 12. Furthermore, more than half of the children who were rescued during the operation were U.S. citizens. 

Rep. Madeleine Dean  (R-Pa.) said the issue is a global epidemic in need of new solutions and identifying the victims is of the utmost importance. 

“Behind these images and livestream are children who may still be the victim of abuse and suffering, hoping to be found, hoping to be rescued.” 

She noted that if members of this body truly cared about the safety of CSAM victims they would provide the necessary resources and funding to law enforcement and to non-profit organizations who are working in this space.

Tebow pushed the representatives for a bill to fund a rescue team to save sexually exploited children and asked lawmakers to support its funding. 

“This bill is going to build a big enough rescue team to get all those 50,000 boys and girls. This bill needs funding, support and technology.”

Camille Cooper, vice president of anti-human trafficking and child exploitation at the Tim Tebow Foundation, said that thanks to the work done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they have been able to identify many of the offenders.

“We need a rescue team, we need specially trained victim identification analysts and we need 100 of them,” said Cooper.

She noted that it’s important to modernize the database and invest in training, as well as provide the best tools available to rescue these children. 

Biggs agreed that a large law enforcement effort is needed. 

“The work can not only be done by the federal government, joined efforts among federal states, international and non-government partners are essential for the identification and rescue of victims,” said Biggs.