State Representative Mike Sparks Fights To Strengthen Protections For Child Abuse Victims

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During the 2018 legislative session, State Representative Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna) fought to enhance protections for Tennessee children who have fallen victim to certain forms of abuse by successfully sponsoring passage of House Bill 2536.

The measure requires the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) to study the effectiveness of statutes of limitations as they relate to the prosecution of offenses related to particular forms of child abuse. Additionally, TACIR must share their findings with General Assembly members by January 15, 2019.

Donna Coulter testified during a hearing before the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations...



Nathan Shaver, Senior Research Associate with the TACIR stated...



Shaver went on to list how many states don't have a statute of limitations for felony child sex offenses...



According to WGNS' Scott Walker who pushed the idea forward to abolish the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases, "It is time to make this change as most people who are victimized as children turn to alcohol or drugs to cope. Much later in life they realize that their addiction issues stem from child sex abuse. Many of those who make that realization don't seek help until they are 40 plus years of age. Such trauma's of child sex abuse literally changes the way the brain develops"

See the testimony by Donna Coutler below (Starting at 2 MIN and 45 SEC):



Statutes of limitations are often thought of as a deadline for bringing legal action and exist in both criminal and civil law. Currently in Tennessee, they can range anywhere from one-fifteen years depending on the classification of the types of crime committed. Ten states have already eliminated statutes of limitations for all felony child abuse crimes, thirty-one have eliminated some but not all statutes on felony abuse crimes, while nine still have all limitations in place on these particular crimes.


Research indicates that children who are victims of certain crimes involving abuse do not often disclose the abuse until much later in life. In fact, one-third of victims never disclose abuse, while only one-third disclose during childhood; the remaining one-third during adulthood -- with 48 being the average age for disclosure.

Based upon the findings of the study, the following recommendations were made:

• Tennessee should consider fully eliminating statutes for most felony child abuse crimes like the majority of other states.

OR -

• The state should consider eliminating statutes of limitations for felony child abuse crimes in circumstances where corroborating evidence is obtained. In these instances where corroborating evidence is not obtained the statutes otherwise in place would apply.

AND -

• The state must close legal loopholes related to the shortening of these limitations in instances involving certain offenses committed against minors.

"I am honored to have sponsored legislation in 2018 that allowed us to take a closer look at how our current system in place may have unintended consequences on our most innocent citizens," said Representative Sparks. "I appreciate the efforts of TACIR as it relates to this study because I know this important information will help my colleagues and I close all loopholes and make needed improvements in order to ensure that our children are better protected against those who do not have their best interests in mind."

The entire presentation is available by clicking here.

Mike Sparks serves as Vice-Chair of the House Calendar & Rules Committee. He is also a member of the House Insurance & Banking and House Business & Utilities Committees, as well as the House Business & Utilities Subcommittee. Sparks lives in Smyrna and represents House District 49, which includes part of Rutherford County. He can be reached by email at: Rep.Mike.Sparks@capitol.tn.gov or by calling (615) 741-6829.

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