ST. THOMAS- Perpetrators of cyberstalking can now face 18 months imprisonment under The Virgin Islands Civil Procedure for Victims of Stalking Act passed on July 30.
Bill 31-0011, proposed by Senator Terrence Nelson, repeals the Virgin Islands Code and establishes The Virgin Islands Civil Procedure for Victims of Stalking Act.
The changes to the law redefine terms related to stalking and provide guidance to law enforcement officials.
The Victims of Stalking Act now includes definitions of harassment, cyber stalking, course of conduct, and credible threat. The law also provides guidance on protection orders, hearing and temporary orders, and procedural requirements.
Under the new law, cyberstalking includes electronic communication to a specific person causing substantial emotional distress.
The repealed law, according to the act, is a “remedy for those victims who do not qualify for a domestic violence order 31 of protection.”
Sonia Andrew, Chief of Staff to Senator Terrence Nelson said, “The purpose of this [act] is to offer greater protection to victims of stalking activity.”
The law asserts, “Victims of stalking deserve the same access to and protection of the justice system as that afforded to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
The VI Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council VIDVSAC welcomes the news changes to the law, noting “the next steps are to establish policies within the court system for non-familial victims of stalking to apply for a restraining order.”
“The greatest success of this bill, was the ability for a victim who is not related to [his/her] stalker, to be eligible for a restraining order – this was not available before,” said VIDVSAC Executive Director, Khnuma Simmonds-Esannason.
VIDVSAC is calling on the VIPD to ensure victims of stalking are made a priority.
“It is also our hope that the AG’s office and VIPD will respond to these crimes with a greater sense of urgency since our Senators are aware of the challenges that victims have faced with these agencies,” said Esannason.
On August 18, Gov. Kenneth Mapp signed Bill No. 31-0011 into law stating, “Stalking is a very serious issue, and I believe this bill provides an avenue of help that stalking victims do not have now.”