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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesSpousal Rape Bill Sent to Full Senate

Spousal Rape Bill Sent to Full Senate

V.I. law will be changed to eliminate specific exemptions for spouses in several categories of sexual assault if a bill sent on Friday by the Rules and Judiciary Committee for a final vote becomes law.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Sammuel Sanes adds in its summary "protections for spouses, men and women, who are the victims of actions that constitute rape or unlawful sexual contact in aggravated domestic violence instances." [Bill no. 30-0060]

Currently in the V.I. Code, the definitions of aggravated rape, rape in the second and third degree and unlawful sexual contact all explicitly say it is only rape or sexual assault if the victim is "not the perpetrator’s spouse." The definition of first degree rape does not include this language.

Sanes’ bill simply deletes the phrases "and not the perpetrator’s spouse" from each offense definition.

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When the bill was considered in committee, V.I. Police Department personnel testified that the provisions should be removed, but that police have gotten around the question until now by using the first degree rape statute in spousal rape cases and charges for aggravating factors under the territory’s domestic violence statutes.

At the time, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen opposed the bill, arguing that it is not possible for a spouse to rape a spouse, and that some women do not feel loved if they are not beaten, generating controversy and condemnation in national publications including Ebony Magazine and Salon.com. (See related links below)

"(I)f it is forcefully against the will of a spouse then that is a problem. But if a woman says no and he still wants something, I don’t know how you can call it rape. Maybe because I am not a "no" person, I don’t know," Hansen said.

Hansen also stated "Some of them just like it … I don’t want to describe who they are, nationality. If the man don’t hit them, they say the man don’t love them."

Hansen was the sole vote against the measure at that time. Several senators distanced themselves from Hansen’s comments at the time and again during Friday’s hearing.

"This is something in the law that should have been rectified years ago," Sanes said.

"In this day and age we need to recognize our spouses are not property and respect each other accordingly. No is no," said Sen. Kenneth Gittens.

"This is a very sensitive bill and I support this legislation," said Sen. Diane Capehart.

Hansen attended much of the hearing, commenting on several other bills, but was notably absent during the consideration of this measure.

Sanes offered an amendment that added the phrase "spousal consent shall be an affirmative defense" to the definitions of each category of sexual assault under V.I. law.

Voting to send the bill, as amended, on for a final vote on the Senate floor were: Capehart, Sanes, Gittens, Sens. Janette Millin Young and Myron Jackson. Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Donald Cole were absent.

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