April 9, 2014
NASHVILLE – Victims of rape would have the power to keep their identity private under legislation sponsored by Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) which was approved by the full Senate on Wednesday. Senate Bill 2254 provides that identifying information regarding the victim will be treated as confidential upon a guilty plea or conviction sentencing of the defendant. It would not be open for inspection by members of the public, unless the victim waives their right to confidentiality.
“This legislation is designed to be sensitive to the victims of sexual offenses and their desire to keep their identity private following the conclusion of a trial where the defendant is found guilty,” said Senator Massey. “From what I have been told about sexual crime victims, is that they feel powerless. This legislation gives helps to give the power back to them and protect them from further victimization.”
The legislation requires the district attorney general to inform the victims of their right to privacy. Nothing in the bill can be used to deny access to the public part of this file as long as the personal information is redacted.
“This does not affect the open records law until there is a sentencing,” added Massey. “The public will still be able to know about the crimes in their community and the media will be able to report, through adjudication, anything that they are reporting now.”
Massey worked in collaboration with the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, Tennessee Press Association, Tennessee Bar Association, Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Abuse, Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, District Attorney Generals Conference and the Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference in crafting the legislation.
“We live in a new age where the use of various media outlets can re-victimize the victim, their family and friends. New technological advances like Facebook or blogs have provided a new forum for posting pictures and videos almost anywhere and instantly with little possibility of retrieving the electronic transmission. Rape victims should have the right to guard against such action and this bill will give them that ability.”