As the state Legislature wrapped up for the summer, the two branches could not come to an agreement on rape legislation.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) reintroduced the Rape is Rape Bill in February, which defined forced anal and oral sex as rape. The assemblywoman promoted the bill along with Lydia Cuomo, a young woman who was forced to perform and participate in these acts in August 2011.
Her attacker, a drunken, off-duty police officer, Michael Pena, was sentenced for criminal sexual acts, but not rape because the court could not prove vaginal penetration, as needed for a rape conviction.
Although the sentence carries the same amount of time as rape, Cuomo and Simotas asserted that semantics matter and forced sexual acts of any kind should be called rape.
The bill passed in the Assembly, but not in the Senate.
Sen. Catharine Young (R-Cattaraugus County) introduced the Rape Victims Equality Act, which would not require proof of vaginal penetration for a rape conviction, just contact. The legislation also renames forced anal and oral sexual assault as “anal rape” and “oral rape,” but keeps them as criminal sexual acts, not rape convictions. The bill passed in the Senate but not in the Assembly.
Prosecutors alleged that the Rape is Rape legislation would make verdicts more difficult to obtain and instead pushed for Young’s version.
“The amended version will alleviate their concerns,” asserted Simotas, who said she will reintroduce her legislation next session.
“The Senate’s version of the bill persists in differentiating between victims of rape, while the Assembly bill truly treats all victims equally,” Simotas said in response to the Senate not passing the Rape is Rape legislation. “By differentiating among these acts, the Senate bill seems to say there are ‘real’ rape victims and other, lesser rape victims.”