June 19, 2014

Assembly Passes Legislation Updating Existing Law and Expand Definition of Rape

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined with Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Women's Issues Aravella Simotas today to announce the passage of legislation that would reinforce current law to add other forms of sexual assault, specifically oral and anal sexual conduct, to the current definition of rape and would also remove the requirement that penetration be proven to establish a rape charge (A.3339-A/Simotas).

"Rape is rape, there is no way around it and we should certainly not be telling victims that their victimization is different or less than that of others because of arbitrary definitions," Silver said. "This legislation amends the current law to ensure that all victims who suffer such traumatizing and inexcusable acts of sexual assault are seen as the same in the eyes of the law."

"It is our obligation to respect survivors by ensuring that what anyone would recognize is rape is unequivocally called rape by the law," Simotas said. "Calling rape by any other name rejects the true nature of the crime and literally adds insult to injury."

Current law defines the crime of rape only in cases of vaginal penetration. This bill would amend the law to remove requirement that penetration be proven to establish vaginal sexual conduct in order to parallel the standard of other forms of sexual conduct currently defined as "criminal sexual act." The legislation would further include oral and anal sexual conduct into the definition of the crimes of rape in the first, second and third degrees.

The catalyst for redefining rape occurred on March 28, 2012, when a mistrial was declared on the rape charge against a former New York City police officer, who was convicted of multiple other charges for holding Lydia Cuomo, a Bronx school teacher, at gun point, threatening her life and forcibly sexually assaulting her. Despite the evidence presented in court of forcible, nonconsensual sexual conduct and being convicted of criminal sexual act, the former police officer was not convicted of the crime of rape.

"I am excited that the Assembly has once again passed the Rape is Rape bill and continues to work with me to achieve this important reform," Cuomo said. "I am committed to seeing the bill pass both houses next year and am eager to see the positive change that this will bring."