2018 Legislation

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE PREVENTION (2018)

One in ten children will be sexually abused by the time s/he is 18, and sexually abused children are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and school dropout. Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of youth ages 14 – 17 had been sexually victimized, and abused children are also far more likely to experience teen pregnancy.

To address the pervasive problem of child sexual abuse in Tennessee, in 2014 the General Assembly passed Erin’s Law (Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-601), which declared that the detection, intervention, prevention, and treatment of child sexual abuse is a priority for the state. It also required the creation of a child sexual abuse prevention curriculum. Despite the passage of Erin’s Law, child sexual abuse prevention was not taught in the majority of Tennessee public school classrooms.

The lack of education on this subject means that students are often unable to identify sexual abuse or communicate about incidents of abuse. Children in Tennessee public schools were not required to receive education on child sexual abuse prevention because the curriculum, which has already been developed, is neither referenced in nor required by the family life curriculum statute (Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-1301). Further complicating this lack of education on child sexual abuse was that child abuse prevention experts were afraid to teach students about abuse prevention for fear of being sued. Because of this fear, these topics were often not addressed at all, which often resulted in the underreporting of suspected abuse and, sometimes, lawsuits against schools themselves.

This new law amended both Erin’s Law and The Family Life Curriculum to cross-reference each other and to require all public schools to provide education on the prevention, detection, intervention and treatment of child sexual abuse. It allows expert educators who provide instruction related to child sexual abuse to teach without fear of being sued, thereby reducing the likelihood of lawsuits against schools related to child sexual abuse.

For full text of Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-6-1304; 49-6-1306 and 37-1-603 visit LexisNexis.

 

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DOMESTIC VIOLENCE OFFENDER NOTIFICATION (2018)

According to the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee currently (2017) ranks fourth in the nation in terms of the number of women killed by men and is consistently ranked in the top ten most violent states for women. Offenders with a history of domestic violence are five times more likely to murder an intimate partner when a firearm is present in the home.

Tennessee Defendants who have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor are currently prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm under both state and federal law. Although this fact was verbally communicated to defendants prior to the entry of a guilty plea, the notice provided to defendants was deficient when compared to the information provided to respondents in civil Order of Protection proceedings.

This law amended Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-111 to ensure that an offender convicted of a domestic violence crime receives notification of the dispossession procedure pursuant to both state and federal law. The notice-to-offenders section currently duplicates references to the federal definition of domestic assault and should clearly reference both the Tennessee definition as well as federal definition because domestic violence offenses are almost always prosecuted at the state level.

For full text of Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-111 and 40-14-109, visit LexisNexis.

 

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