Definitions of Child Sexual Abuse and Severe Child Abuse (SB 866)

Juvenile proceedings must consider every element of crimes involving a child, meaning any person under the age of 18. Under Tennessee law, a child must be cared for by a parent, legal guardian, or a caregiver at all times. Parent and legal guardian are the easiest to understand; however a "caregiver" would include any relative or other person living, visiting, or working in the child’s home who supervises or otherwise provides care or assistance for the child at an educational, recreational, medical, religious, or other settings where children are present. T.C.A. § 37-1-102(b)(4). A defining provision of the Juvenile proceedings statute has been amended, adding that “caregiver” may be a person who has allegedly used the child for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or trafficking, including, but not limited to, as a trafficker. The statute now holds a caregiver liable for using a position of trust or authority to accomplish this sexual act. T.C.A. § 39-13-509(a)(3). 


The amendment also proscribes a minor from intentionally or knowingly using a telecommunication device to distribute, publish, or disseminate a photo, video, or other material that contains a sexually explicit image of minor. A "sexual explicit" image is defined as a lewd or lascivious visual depiction of a minor’s private parts, or general nudity, only if such nudity is used for the purpose of sexual gratification. It is also illegal to intentionally possesses a photo, video, or other material that contains a sexually explicit image of a minor. However, the minor in possession may have an affirmative defense if he or she deletes the material, or reports the material to his or her parent or legal guardian, school or law enforcement official.