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New York expands legal definition of rape in landmark legislation

New York State has broadened the legal definition of rape to encompass various forms of nonconsensual sexual contact, with a bill signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul. The previous definition strictly limited rape to vaginal penetration. The new law, effective September 1, 2023, now includes nonconsensual anal, oral, and vaginal sexual contact. This significant change aims to reflect a more comprehensive understanding of sexual assault.

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Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, a co-sponsor of the bill and a survivor of sexual assault herself, highlighted the importance of acknowledging all forms of nonconsensual sexual contact as rape. This redefinition aims to address the realities survivors face and ensure that all forms of sexual violation are legally recognized and prosecuted accordingly. Cruz emphasized that the law’s expansion is crucial for acknowledging the severity of survivors’ experiences.

The new definition also plays a vital role in prosecuting crimes against members of the LGBTQ community, as highlighted by co-sponsor state Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal. Governor Hochul stated that this legislation supports survivors in reclaiming their power and dignity, ensuring justice through the legal system. The revised definition addresses legal ambiguities and technicalities that previously hindered the prosecution of rape cases.