Doing More To Prosecute Child Abusers

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Imagine being an elementary or preschool teacher and asking one of your students, “Why are you so upset this morning? Did something upset you on the way to school?” Then, imagine the shock of hearing the child’s description of how they were sexually abused, and had been many times. Then imagine the frustration when you learn the child’s statement, made to you, cannot be provided in a court of law and the abuser may never be brought to justice. 

I believe as parents, grandparents, teachers and leaders, we all hold our children as precious. We celebrate their birth and we cherish their futures. If we are to be successful in helping them flourish we must be vigilant in protecting them. Just as we ensure they are fed, clothed, and sheltered, we
must keep them safe. 

One, if not the most reviled and repugnant acts we will ever hear about are instances of the sexual abuse of children. It is so repulsive that unless we are required to be involved, as a parent, counselor, health care provider or law enforcement official, we will avoid addressing this offensive topic.

But we cannot allow our senses to become numb. We cannot ignore these young victims. We must lend our voice so the child who cannot speak, who is intimidated, ashamed, and afraid to speak still has a voice. For these children, these innocent and helpless victims of sexual abuse, we must do even more. I applaud Sen. Ken Yager and Rep. William Lamberth for their efforts to do exactly that. 

I know this is a difficult but necessary task. I worked for three years to take a first step by passing legislation in 2009 that allows a videotaped interview with a child victim to be used as evidence in a criminal trial. Now, because of the commitment of Rep. Lamberth and Senator Yager, and the dedication of retired District Attorney Paul Phillips, now legal counsel to the Elgin Foundation for Children, legislation has been approved that will enable a court to hear a statement made by a child under 12 given to a caregiver, parent or other person in whom the child confided. It is an
important step forward. 

The legislation allows a court to consider the circumstances as a whole and to assess if the statements are trustworthy. Factors a court will consider include: spontaneity of the statement, consistency, mental state, motive or lack of motive, use of language a child would use and amount of time between the statement and the abuse. In addition, a court would have to find there
was independent proof of the sexual abuse before allowing the child’s statement. 

Children who are sexually abused are impacted in a way that few of us can imagine. We must break the silence that is imposed as families and caregivers attempt to deal with the abuse themselves, without the help of the justice system. While counseling may help sexually abused children to overcome their experience and intervention programs may help parents and caregivers cope with failure to discover or prevent the abuse, perpetrators are rarely stopped unless – and until – they are brought to justice. 

The progress made by my 2009 legislation, that allowed the child’s videotaped description of their abuse was an important step in protecting our precious children. The Yager / Lamberth bill that allows a child’s statement to be provided by someone the child trusted and confided in is an excellent next step as we continue to fight for justice for our children.  

Diane Black



Teachers Have Good Compensation Compared To Other Taxpayers

Hamilton County experienced a property tax increase of about 10.7 percent in 2017. By law the reappraisal of property shall not increase tax revenue. So after the reappraisal the state certified millage rate for Hamilton County was 2.4976 per hundred dollars assessed value. The county commission voted to raise the millage rate to 2.7652 per hundred. That's about a 10.7 percent increase ... (click for more)

Neighbors Should Welcome More Neighbors With Union Avenue Development

Residents of Chattanooga can look at Atlanta and Nashville and breath a sigh of relief that housing prices here are cheaper than those to the south and to the west.  That will not continue to be the case, however, if we stifle new housing development at every turn. Home prices in Chattanooga rose at an average of 7.2 percent over the course of 2017,  and the median ... (click for more)

Mayor Berke Plans Affordable Housing Fund, Expansion Of Innovation District; Creation Of Council Against Extremism

Mayor Andy Berke, in his annual State of the City Address on Thursday, said he plans to establishing the city’s first Affordable Housing Fund. He said the city plans to commit $1 million to the fund "that will be used exclusively to aid the creation of affordable and workforce housing throughout Chattanooga. These funds will be used to supplement federal funding, various ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Man Who Was Recently Charged With Murder Is Accused In Another Earlier Shooting

Chattanooga Police have charged Britian Crutcher with the September 2017 shooting of LaSandra Burdette. Ms. Burdette, 26, was shot just after 3 a.m. in the 2000 block of Ocoee Street in Avondale. Her vehicle was involved in a minor wreck just before the shooting. The shooter was in another vehicle. Police recently charged Crutcher in the homicide of 28-year-old ... (click for more)

Tankersley One-Hitter Leads Silverdale Past CCS

Silverdale had beaten Chattanooga Christian by a 7-0 final in a   softball game at CCS a few weeks ago, but the Lady Chargers were hoping to turn the tide after allowing just two earned runs in that earlier game. Things didn’t turn out as planned for the Lady Chargers Thursday evening at Silverdale. The Lady Seahawks are a really good hitting team and they showed it ... (click for more)

Fulmer Gets 4-Year Contract As Vols Athletic Director

University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport announced Thursday that Director of Athletics Phil Fulmer has signed a four-year contract. Fulmer took over as UT's Director of Athletics on Dec. 1, 2017.   "Phillip has been a great partner over the last four months and I commend him for the work he has done with our student-athletes, coaches and staff," Davenport ... (click for more)