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Tennessee Incest Laws: What Is Prohibited?

Aug. 11, 2016

Incest is a taboo in every culture, but the laws prohibiting it differ widely from state to state. In fact, most state laws don't even agree on the definition of incest.

In Tennessee, the Class C felony of incest is defined as a prohibited relationship between "any person known to be [the] natural parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, stepparent, stepchild, adoptive parent, adoptive child or brother and sister of the half or whole blood."

However, unlike some other states which prohibit any type of sexual activity when there is consanguinity between the partners, in Tennessee, incest must include "sexual penetration." There is no differentiation whether that penetration is vaginal, anal or digital under the law.

Many incestuous acts remain unreported because there is such a stigma attached to the act. Even when it is consensual, the incestuous partners can feel shame, guilt and fear.

When it is not consensual, the familial and societal ostracism the victim can experience as a result of the revelation is often dreaded enough that silence is maintained.

Research by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault indicates that 46 percent of children who were raped were assaulted by a member of their own families --often a genetically close relative. The younger the children are, the easier it is for the accused perpetrators to manipulate them through threats, lies and a misguided belief that this is something all kids go through.

Because of all of the above, when someone is charged with the crime of incest, he or she should assist the criminal defense attorney with preparing a stalwart defense to the allegations that can carry life-long repercussions even when a conviction is not forthcoming.

Source: National District Attorneys Association, "State Criminal Incest Statutes," accessed Aug. 11, 2016