Kyne: New York law to redefine rape will aid victims

The New York State legislative leaders are preparing to pass a “Rape is Rape” bill that has been pushed forth by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. This bill will classify forced anal and oral sex as rape, instead of just “criminal sexual acts.” 

The archaic notion that vaginal penetration is the only type of rape is prevalent in 42 states including New York. Assemblywoman Simotas, during a press conference in Albany, stated that “New York needs to be at the forefront, especially when it concerns survivors of rape and women’s issues. We are the progressive state.”

Simotas spoke with Lydia Cuomo during the conference, whose story has fueled the push for the reclassification. Cuomo, a schoolteacher, was attacked and sexually assaulted by an NYPD officer in 2011 while waiting for a ride to her first day of work. 

The officer Michael Peña was drunk and armed when he raped Cuomo, yet the charges of rape were dropped. The jury stated that Cuomo could not prove that she was vaginally raped; therefore charges of rape could not be given. Peña was convicted for criminal sexual acts and predatory sexual assault. Since he was armed, he was given a 75-year-to-life sentence. Under the threat of retrial Peña pleaded guilty on two counts of rape, yet this did nothing to his sentence whatsoever. 

Cuomo stated “To call what happened ‘sexual assault’ is a crime itself. Right is right, he raped me at the end of the day, and he’s not being called a rapist. He is a rapist, and now New York needs to call rape, rape because it doesn’t matter whether or not it is oral, anal, or vaginal, they are all a gross and violent violation when you are the one being raped.”

While Lydia Cuomo is among the forerunners in advocating this bill, the new classification is not only important for women but for all possible victims. Under current New York state laws male attacks are also filed under the status of criminally sexual acts, not rape.

Andrew Willis, a rape victim and representative for the Stop Abuse Campaign, attended the Albany press conference and stated his support for this bill. During the conference Willis said “I was raped when I was a 10-year-old boy, but in New York anal rape isn’t rape it’s only a sexual assault…Working together we’re going to change that by passing the ‘Rape is Rape’ bill.”

The government’s twisted notions on rape are baffling. This issue is black and white; I honestly do not understand how properly adapted laws are not already in place in all 50 states. It is disappointing to see the odds stacked up against victims. While New York’s laws needs to be improved, Simotas was correct in calling New York the “progressive state” for it is already better than the 25 states that do not have the word “rape” within their legislations at all. These states fall back completely onto the terms “sexual assault” and “criminal sex act.”   

Change is imperative; the fact that the laws are stacked against the victims is disgusting, the government’s main purpose is to protect its people. Anyone can be a victim, therefore everyone should be protected. Rapists deserve the harshest punishment, no matter how or whom he or she rapes, and victims should not be discredited and judged at every turn. Hopefully Simotas and Cuomo’s hard work pays off.