Assistant Police Commissioner Thomas Hannah used last week’s Senate hearing to revamp “archaic” rape laws and the “unfortunate comments” from Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen to lead into a disturbing report on sexual abuse, human trafficking, prostitution and other “taboo subjects” in the territory at a St. Croix Rotary luncheon Thursday.
“I’m glad that improper statement was made so that everyone can understand the nature of the animal that we’re dealing with in law enforcement, the nature of the animal we’re dealing with in social services, social agencies, the Women’s Coalition, the Women’s’ Resource Center, Human Services,” Hannah said.
Hannah first made it clear that husbands and wives can be raped by their spouses. Spousal abuse has been going on for a long time, he said, and is one of the “hidden things” kept from the world by Americans and Virgin Islanders.
Hannah was speaking about Bill 30-0060, which included rape of a spouse in a list of punishable crimes and was sent to the full Senate by the Rules and Judiciary Committee.
“Think about the number of years families have had to endure that abuse,” he said.
Hannah also spoke of another law, the Child Protection Act of 1995, which was enacted in response to “a pattern in the community” of sexual assault on minors. In his 26 years with the V.I. Police Department, Hannah said he has seen cases of child abuse in schools and the home, and that some individuals think it is acceptable.
Hannah also commented on recent talk in the Senate about legalizing prostitution in the territory.
“I don’t know of any person in this world who wants to be a prostitute,” he said, adding that prostitution frequently involves violence, especially when human traffickers are involved.
As recently as 2011, during a human trafficking raid in Christiansted, police discovered women from Puerto Rico who were forced to come to the Virgin Islands and become prostitutes, Hannah said. He said the women thought they were going to work as dancers.
Hannah talked about other sex crimes including sexual harassment in the workplace, sexting and pornography. He said pornography is “prolific” in the territory and called social networking “the monster that is upon us.”
Children are vulnerable to predators through Facebook, Instagram and smartphones, he said. He said there have been students from both St. Croix high schools whose photos of “inappropriate acts” were posted on the Internet.
The Virgin Islands Police Department and the community can possibly prevent and curtail some of the abuse crimes, but they are “impossible” to stop, he said.
Responding to a question from a Rotarian, Hannah said the community can help by reporting crimes and coming forward as witnesses. People want crimes solved but no one wants to talk to the police. Most crimes can’t be solved without witness information, he said.
“Call Crime Stoppers. It works,” he advised. It is a secure way to report crime and may involve a reward for the caller.