Violence Against Women

“Rape Is Rape” Bill Fails in NY Senate, Bronx Teacher Vows to Continue Her Fight for Justice

[Trigger Warning: This post contains references to sexually violent acts and threatening behavior.]

Lydia Cuomo, a 27-year-old Bronx teacher, was brutally raped at gunpoint by drunken off-duty cop Michael Pena. That was in August 2011, but over the past year Cuomo has traveled to Albany, NY numerous times to tell her horrific story in hopes of finally finding legal justice – something that’s been denied to her thus far.

Under current New York law, rape is strictly defined as forced vaginal penetration. Cuomo was vaginally, anally, and orally violated, but the crime committed against her was not considered rape, and was instead classified as “criminal sex acts.” Since her attack, Cuomo has been working with state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas on pushing a ‘rape is rape’ bill to broaden that definition. While the Assembly this year passed the bill, it died in the Senate when a new bill that made distinctions between vaginal, oral, and anal rape was introduced and passed instead.

“It’s depressing, disheartening, and discouraging,” Cuomo stated after the state legislature ended its legislative session without passing her ‘rape is rape’ bill. “The Senate bill defeats the entire purpose. They’re saying for some reason, vaginal rape is different than oral and anal rape when the point should be it’s all the same crime. Their bill didn’t speak to what I wanted at all.”

Cuomo plans to continue her efforts next session.

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