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Queens Assemblywoman Pushes to Broaden State's Legal Definition of Rape

By Jeanmarie Evelly | February 13, 2013 12:23pm

ASTORIA — Queens Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas is pushing a bill that would change New York State’s laws on rape, arguing the current legal definition is archaic and fails to ensure justice for victims.

Current state law requires vaginal penetration for a rape charge. The bill, which Simotas has been aggressively pushing in Albany this week, would change the law so that the charge would also include oral and anal sexual conduct and aggravated sexual contact in addition to sexual intercourse, the Astoria lawmaker said.

“It’s our obligation to respect survivors by ensuring that what any person would recognize as rape is unequivocally called rape by the law," Simotas said in a statement.

The assemblywoman first introduced the “Rape is Rape” bill last year following the trial of ex-cop Michael Pena, who was accused of sexually assaulting a young teacher in Inwood by gunpoint in 2011.

Pena’s case ended in a partial mistrial when the jury could not agree on several counts, including two counts of rape, because of the law's current definition (Pena later pleaded guilty to the charges to avoid another trial).

Pena’s victim, Lydia Cuomo, has come forward publicly for the first time to advocate for the passage of the bill.

“A lot of change needs to happen around rape and the word 'rape' and this is my way of doing it,” Cuomo said in a press release.