Governor Hochul Signs Rape Is Rape Legislation Into Law 

January 30, 2024

Today, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation sponsored by NY State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal NY State Assembly Member Catalina Cruz to expand the legal definition of rape in NY State.

Previously, New York State’s criminal code only classified rape as unwanted sexual penetration involving a penis and vagina. This narrow definition is not only heteronormative and offensive, it also left New Yorkers unable to name rapists as rapists unless they attacked exactly in line with the legal language in New York’s Penal Law.

LGBTQ New Yorkers, who may engage in sexual acts outside of traditional vaginal penetration and have been shown to experience rape higher rates than heterosexual, cis-gendered people, were particularly vulnerable.

Now, non-consensual oral, anal, and vaginal sexual contact will be considered under the definition of rape in the first, second, and third degrees, rather than “criminal sexual acts,” a term that does not convey the seriousness of the conduct.

This law makes clear that sexual assault of any kind is not tolerated in New York State.

Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, “Rape is Rape, plain and simple. In New York State we cannot allow outdated, heteronormative notions of sex to limit our ability to acknowledge that fact and to hold those who commit acts of sexual violence accountable. I applaud Governor Hochul for signing our bill (S8008), and now our chapter amendments, to expand the definition of rape to include not only vaginal penetration, but also acts of oral, anal, and vaginal contact. This update to the law will make it easier to hold perpetrators of sex crimes accountable and will be particularly important in helping to protect members of the LGBTQ+ community, who are victims of rape and sexual assault at higher rates than cis-gendered heterosexual Americans. Thank you to Assemblymember Cruz for fighting for this change in the Assembly and thank you to Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for making this bill a priority in the Senate. I also want to extend my sincere gratitude to Lydia Cuomo, the brave survivor, whose activism, and perseverance, spurred this much needed change.”

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