|Tennessee’s State Senate voted unanimously Monday night to approve legislation sponsored by Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) to ensure that an adult authority figure who has inappropriate sexual contact with a minor is held accountable for his or her actions.
The bill creates a Class A misdemeanor offense in cases where an adult authority figure touches or kisses the lips of a minor child age 13 to 17 for reasons of sexual gratification.
“This loophole in the law was brought to my attention by a local judge,” Tracy said. “The offense is addressed for children under the age of 13, but not for those minors ages 13 to 17 who can also be victimized by sexual predators. These youth are very vulnerable to become victims of sexual contact by an authority figure and should be protected under Tennessee law.”
Tennessee law presently makes it an offense of aggravated sexual battery when such an act occurs to a child under the age of 13.
The law, however, is silent when it involves minors age 13 to 17. Senate Bill 1679 makes it a Class A misdemeanor, as long as the adult who commits the offense is at least four or more years older than the victim.
“There is no doubt that this inappropriate behavior is a predatory act which should be punished,” Tracy added. “Inappropriate sexual contact by an authority figure has a long lasting negative effect on a minor child for many years beyond the act. We need to strengthen the law and punish those who use their position of authority to harm children.”
The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas) in the House of Representatives where it passed by a vote of 94 to 2, now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.