For Immediate Release

February 12, 2013

Contact: Jim McFadden, 718-545-3889, 917-763-7694

Assemblymember and victims speak out in support of common-sense legislation
ALBANY, N.Y. – New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) together with Lydia Cuomo, held a press conference announcing the re-introduction of the Rape is Rape bill on Tuesday. Assemblymember Simotas first introduced the Rape is Rape bill last session following the verdict in the Michael Pena case, in which Ms. Cuomo was the victim.While Pena was convicted of several other charges for holding Ms. Cuomo at gunpoint, threatening her life and forcibly sodomizing her, he was not convicted of the top count of rape. As the law currently stands, a charge of rape requires an element of vaginal penetration.

“Common sense dictates that what happened to Lydia in this case is clearly rape,” Simotas said.

Simotas’ bill would define rape as criminal sexual conduct, rather than sexual intercourse, to ensure that rapists cannot escape facing the full consequences of their actions based on a technicality. Simotas’ 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.

At the press conference, Ms. Cuomo outlined her traumatic experience and the cause she has found herself at the center of—fighting for rape to be called what it truly is. “A lot of change needs to happen around rape and the word ‘rape’ and this is my way of doing it,” Cuomo 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,” said Senator Catharine Young (R,C,I-Olean), the bill’s Senate co-sponsor. “We will work with the Assembly, prosecutors and victims advocacy groups to come up with a positive solution. Lydia Cuomo deserves our sincere thanks for having the courage to come to Albany and advocate for all survivors of rape and sexual assault.”

Rape victim and advocate Andrew Willis also spoke in favor of Simotas’s bill. Willis is affiliated with the Stop Abuse Campaign, a non-profit cause dedicated to supporting survivors of abuse. “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,” Willis said, “working together we’re going to change that by passing the Rape is Rape bill.”

Willis has started an online petition at for supporters to sign. As of Tuesday afternoon, over 1,250 signatures had already been recorded in support of the bill.

Addressing Ms. Cuomo’s family and friends in the audience, Simotas said that “Lydia’s courage in coming forward to shed light on this important issue is truly inspiring.” Simotas concluded, “It’s our obligation to respect survivors by ensuring that what any person would recognize as rape is unequivocally called rape by the law.”


Jim McFadden
Director of Communications
Office of Assemblymember Aravella Simotas

718-545-3889 (o)
718-545-3607 (f)

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