The Tennessee General Assembly has passed a bill that reduces the number of times sexual abuse victims must testify in court. Under the new “Child Protection Act,” a person accused of sexually abusing a child multiple times will receive a single trial, allowing a victimized child to testify only once in court. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Vince Dean, R-East Ridge, and Senator Ken Yager, R-Harriman.
“Under previous law, children who were victims of repeated sexual abuse had to endure numerous trials and re-live the abuse on the witness stand,” said Rep. Dean. “Sexual offenders must face justice but not at the expense of our children’s peace of mind. The Child Protection Act ends the trial process as quickly as possible for our children, allowing them to move forward with their lives.”
If a person is accused of sexually abusing a child three or more times within a 90-day period, the new legislation will merge these offenses into a single trial. The same rule applies for a person accused of at least five incidents of sexual abuse involving two or more victims within a 90-day period. The bill also indicates a defendant will be given a single trial regardless of whether the counts of sexual abuse occur in separate counties.
By reducing the number of trials of sexual offenders in the state, the Child Protection Act will also yield a significant cost-savings to the public, Rep. Dean said.
He said he has been working on the bill for nearly three years alongside the District Attorney’s Conference and the Tennessee Bar Association. He issued a special thank you to Hamilton County District Attorney Bill Cox who he indicated played an instrumental role in getting the legislation drafted and approved.
“It has been an honor to join forces with Rep. Vince Dean in making legislation that further protects the victims of these heinous crimes,” said District Attorney Bill Cox. “The Child Protection Act will not only save money for the public, but it will significantly reduce the emotional strain on the victims and their families.”
The bill cleared both the House and Senate with a unanimous vote. It is now on its way to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“This law is a good example of how the legislative and judicial systems can work hand-in-hand for our community’s security,” said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee.“ Both legislators and court officials alike have expressed how vital this added protection is, and we are deeply grateful to all sides for joining together to better shield the children in our state.”