Victory for Rape Survivors as Simotas’s Bill Passes Assembly

Rape-is-Rape legislation redefines rape to protect survivors
June 12, 2013

Albany, N.Y. – On Tuesday, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas announced the passage of her Rape-is-Rape legislation. The bill redefines rape to include forced oral and anal sex, in addition to forced sexual intercourse. It also changes the penetration element that is currently required to prove forced sexual intercourse to a simple contact standard. This new language makes it easier to punish the guilty and gives survivors a sense of justice.

“It’s our obligation to respect survivors by ensuring that what any person would recognize as rape is unequivocally called rape by the law,” explained Simotas. “Calling rape by any other name rejects the true nature of the crime and literally adds insult to injury.”

Rape survivor Lydia Cuomo has worked closely with Simotas in advocating for the Rape is Rape bill. In 2011, Cuomo, a schoolteacher, was brutally attacked in the Bronx on her way to work by off-duty police officer Michael Pena. Though Pena was convicted of committing a criminal sexual act, despite the overwhelming physical evidence Cuomo was shocked when Pena was not convicted of rape. Simotas’s bill eliminates the unnecessary distinctions in terminology that resulted in this miscarriage of justice.

“Semantics really do matter for survivors,” Cuomo said. “Over the past several months, by calling all rape what it is – rape – we have exposed an inequity in the law. Today’s passage of this bill is so important to me and to everyone else who’s been forced to go through the same ordeal.”

Simotas’ bill also standardizes the elements of forcible sexual conduct by redefining the elements of sexual intercourse to require contact, as with anal and oral sexual conduct, instead of penetration.

Since the bill’s re-introduction in the Assembly earlier this year, nearly 26,000 people have signed an online petition supporting the Rape-is-Rape legislation.

“This is a case where an ordinary citizen came to the Capitol and caused a major bill to come to the floor of the Assembly, which is no easy feat,” Simotas said. “Lydia’s courage in speaking out is truly inspiring – her brave work is a testament to all survivors.”