New York Expands Legal Definition of Sexual Assault

( – New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill called the “Rape is Rape Act” into law on Tuesday, January 30th that expanded the legal definition of rape in the state.

The previous definition of rape under the law was defined as vaginal penetration by a penis. The new version has been expanded to included additional non consensual intimate contact. While signing the bill in Albany, Hochul said more victims will be able to bring their perpetrators to justice due to the expanded definition. Though the law was just signed, it will apply to assaults that occur on or after September 1st of this year.

The “Rape is Rape Act” was first brought forward to the New York State Assembly in 2012 after an elementary school teacher was raped by an off-duty NYPD officer. Though the perpetrator, Michael Pena, was charged with rape and eventually removed from the force, he was only convicted on lesser charges because the jury couldn’t come to a consensus about whether forced vaginal penetration occurred.

Hochul highlighted a prominent recent case involving former president Donald Trump, who was accused of rape by writer E Jean Carroll. In the trial, which took place in federal court, the jury chose not to find Trump guilty of rape in the encounter that occurred in 1996 in a luxury department store in Manhattan. The judge in the case blamed New York’s “narrow, technical meaning” of rape under the law, but added that the jury’s decision did not mean that Carroll was unable to substantiate her claims that Trump raped her in a way that most people “commonly understand the word ‘rape.”

The new law was celebrated by advocacy groups like the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. One of their senior legislative policy counsels, Sandi Johnson, said the new definition validates what happened to survivors of rape, suggesting that needing to call a traumatizing experience something less than rape “kind of sanitizes” it.

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