New York Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas of Queens has introduced Assembly Bill 3339, a new version of her Rape is Rape bill. In the last legislative session, she introduced a similar bill following the trial of former police officer Michael Pena, who was charged with sexually assaulting a young teacher by gunpoint in 2011. New York Penal Law 130 makes “sexual intercourse,” defined in its ordinary meaning as “any penetration, however slight,” an element of rape in the first, second, and third degree. At trial, Pena’s lawyer denied that there was rape because there was no intercourse. Pena admitted attacking the woman and threatening to shoot her if she fought back. With the jury deadlocked over whether Pena’s assault constituted rape, the judge declared a mistrial.
Simotas’ bill would define rape as criminal sexual conduct, rather than sexual intercourse, to ensure that offenders face the full consequences of their actions. The proposed legislation re-defines the crimes of Rape in the First, Second and Third Degrees to include oral sexual conduct, anal sexual conduct, and aggravated sexual contact in addition to sexual intercourse as an element of these rape charges. New York State Senator Catharine Young, a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 2240,said “We want to ensure that our state has the most effective and comprehensive statute in the country to prosecute violent sexual assault crimes against women. We will work with the Assembly, prosecutors and victims advocacy groups to come up with a positive solution.”
Andrew Willis, Chief Executive Officer of the Stop Abuse Campaign, a non-profit cause dedicated to supporting survivors of abuse, also spoke in favor of the bill. He 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.” An online petition is available for supporters to sign. As of Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 2,800 signatures recorded in support of the bill.
The Brooklyn Law School Library has in its collection Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation: A Multidisciplinary Approach (Call # HV8079.R35 P7 2009) by Robert R. Hazelwood and Ann Wolbert Burgess. The 592 page book cites U.S. Justice Department statistics that indicate that only 26 % of all rapes or attempted rapes are reported to law enforcement officials, and only slightly more than half of these result in the arrest of a suspect. Part of the problem lies in the public’s lack of faith in the criminal justice system’s ability to effectively deal with rape, victims, and the offenders.