New York’s passing of the “Rape is Rape” bill in June displayed progress for survivors of rape and sexual assault throughout the state. Led by Lydia Cuomo, a NYC teacher who was raped by a city police officer, Lydia fought New York’s narrow view of what constitutes rape for trail.
Previous to the bill, a person would have to prove that there was vaginal rape to qualify under the law; otherwise, any other means such as anal and oral was only considered a criminal sexual conduct charge. In an eloquent discussion of the violation that the attack left behind, Ms. Cuomo went public in order to advocate for the change so that others would not face a “hung jury” because they couldn’t prove “full vaginal penetration.” Ms. Cuomo led the charge to Albany, where Aravella Simotas sponsored the bill in the assembly.
Ms. Cuomo reminds us of another important piece when dealing with rape and sexual assault. “I don’t want to be labeled as a victim.” These courageous survivors of crimes can often face multiple trauma related effects from the event. Risk of pregnancy, STDs, PTSD, and other physical and psychological impacts can plague these people(men and women) for years. The legal system all too punishes those who were attacked, and justice is not a given. Due to action of those who lived near the event, Ms. Cuomo was lucky to have police show up before Michael Pena, her attacker, could flee. Still, conviction was not guaranteed, and it wasn’t until a second court proceeding that Mr. Pena was also sentenced for rape.
Every year, roughly 208,000 people in the United States experience sexual assault. More than half are never reported to the police, and fewer still receive adequate justice. It I important to know there is help. If you experience any sort of sexual assault, or even if you are not sure, please reach out. A confidential hotline 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) could help guide you. So many people do not realize the extent of what sexual assault or rape could mean. Remember that any unwanted or uninvited sexual attention or act constitutes assault. You have the right to help. We can work together to stop sexual assault. Great thanks to people like Lydia Cuomo for her bravery in this fight, and to Aravella Simotas for taking up the cause and bringing it to policy.
By: Courtney Kidd
Our authors want to hear from you! Click to leave a comment