Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect Tennessee

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Statute: 37-1-102; 37-1-401; 37-1-602(a)


Commits or allows to be committed


Not addressed in statutes reviewed

Categories of Maltreatment Defined in Statute

Physical abuse

Sexual abuse

Sexual exploitation

Emotional/mental injury

Categories of Maltreatment Not Defined in Statute



Full Text of Statute


Tenn. Code Ann. 37-1-401 (1996)

'Child' means a person who is under 18 years of age or who is reasonably presumed to be under 18 years of age.

Tenn. Code Ann. 37-1-102 (WESTLAW through End of 2002 2nd Reg. Sess.)

'Abuse' exists when a person under the age of 18 is suffering from, has sustained, or may be in immediate danger of suffering from or sustaining a wound, injury, disability or physical or mental condition caused by brutality, neglect or other actions or inactions of a parent, relative, guardian or caretaker.

'Dependent and neglected child' means a child:

Who is without a parent, guardian or legal custodian;

Whose parent, guardian or person with whom the
child lives, by reason of cruelty, mental
incapacity, immorality or depravity is unfit to
properly care for such child;

Who is under unlawful or improper care,
supervision, custody or restraint by any person,
corporation, agency, association, institution,
society or other organization or who is
unlawfully kept out of school;

Whose parent, guardian or custodian neglects or
refuses to provide necessary medical, surgical,
institutional or hospital care for such child;

Who, because of lack of proper supervision, is
found in any public place the existence of which
is in violation of law;

Who is in such condition of want or suffering or
is under such improper guardianship or control as
to injure or endanger the morals or health of
such child or others;

Who is suffering from abuse or neglect;

Who has been in the care and control of an agency
or person who is not related to such child by
blood or marriage for a continuous period of 18
months or longer in the absence of a court order,
and such person or agency has not initiated
judicial proceedings seeking either legal custody
or adoption of the child; or

Who is or has been allowed, encouraged or
permitted to engage in prostitution or obscene or
pornographic photographing, filming, posing, or
similar activity and whose parent, guardian or
other custodian neglects or refuses to protect
such child from further such activity.

'Severe child abuse' means:

The knowing exposure of a child to or the knowing
failure to protect a child from abuse or neglect
that is likely to cause great bodily harm or
death and the knowing use of force on a child that is likely to cause great bodily harm;

Specific brutality, abuse or neglect towards a
child which in the opinion of qualified experts
has caused or will reasonably be expected to
produce severe psychosis, severe neurotic
disorder, severe depression, severe developmental
delay or retardation, or severe impairment of the
child's ability to function adequately in the
child's environment, and the knowing failure to
protect a child from such conduct; or

The commission of any act towards the child
prohibited by laws pertaining to: Aggravated
rape; aggravated sexual battery; rape of a child;
incest; or aggravated sexual exploitation of a

The knowing failure to protect the child from the
commission of any such act towards the child. or

Knowingly allowing a child to be present within a
structure where the act of creating
methamphetamine is occurring.

Tenn. Code Ann. 37-1-602(a) (WESTLAW through End of 2001 1st Reg. Sess.)

'Child sexual abuse' means the commission of any act involving the unlawful sexual abuse, molestation, fondling or carnal knowledge of a child under 13 years of age that on or after November 1, 1989, constituted the criminal offense of:

Aggravated rape;

Aggravated sexual battery;

Aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor;

Criminal attempt for any of the offenses listed

Especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a



Sexual battery;

Sexual exploitation of a minor.

'Child sexual abuse' also means one or more of the following acts:

Any penetration, however slight, of the vagina or
anal opening of one person by the penis of another person, whether or not there is the emission of semen;

Any contact between the genitals or anal opening
of one person and the mouth or tongue of another

Any intrusion by one person into the genitals or
anal opening of another person, including the use
of any object for this purpose, except that it
shall not include acts intended for a valid
medical purpose;

The intentional touching of the genitals or
intimate parts, including the breasts, genital
area, groin, inner thighs, and buttocks, or the
clothing covering them, of either the child or
the perpetrator, except that it shall not include
acts which may reasonably be construed to be
normal caretaker responsibilities, interactions
with, or affection for a child; or acts intended
for a valid medical purpose;

The intentional exposure of the perpetrator's
genitals in the presence of a child, or any other
sexual act intentionally perpetrated in the
presence of a child, if such exposure or sexual
act is for the purpose of sexual arousal or
gratification, aggression, degradation, or other
similar purpose;

The sexual exploitation of a child, which
includes allowing, encouraging, or forcing a
child to solicit for or engage in prostitution;
or engage in an act prohibited by criminal
statute regarding sexual exploitation of a minor.

'Child sexual abuse' also means the commission of any act specified above against a child 13 years of age through 17 years of age if such act is committed against the child by a parent, guardian, relative, person residing in the child's home, or other person responsible for the care and custody of the child.

'Mental injury' means an injury to the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment in the child's ability to function within the child's normal range of performance and behavior, with due regard to the child's culture.

'Other person responsible for a child's care or welfare' includes, but is not limited to, the child's legal guardian, legal custodian, or foster parent; an employee of a public or private child care agency, public or private school; or any other person legally responsible for the child's welfare in a residential setting.
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