2018-05-02 / Editorials

Stronger, Better Laws Are Needed For Crime Victims

BY ASSEMBLY MEMBER ARAVELLA SIMOTAS

I’m proud to have voted yes on a crime victims legislative package that passed the New York State Assembly on April 23. The legislation would broaden the definition of rape to ensure justice for survivors of rape or sexual assault; help victims of human trafficking; and expand compensation for victims.

This legislative package is about common sense and compassion. The ball is now in the Senate’s court, where these bills also need support in order to become law.

Rape is Rape:

I sponsored a bill in this legislative package which would more broadly define the crime of rape. Under current law, forced oral and anal sex are not considered rape, but rather called “criminal sexual acts.” My bill would redefine rape as non-consensual vaginal sexual contact, oral sexual contact or anal sexual contact. This change would bring New York’s law in line with the definitions used by the FBI. More importantly, it will give rape survivors a sense of justice. Rape is rape and using other names adds insult to those who have already been unimaginably injured.

Human Trafficking Awareness and Victim Support:

Human trafficking is a despicable crime that continues to be a scourge in New York. The signs of human trafficking can be hard to detect and therefore it continues all around us. The Assembly legislation would mandate that commercial casino gaming employees, as well as hotel and motel employees, complete training to increase their ability to identify possible victims of human trafficking and to get them help. By training employees to recognize the warning signs, we can help put a stop to these depraved criminals and save more victims from what amounts to modern-day slavery.

Supporting Crime Victims and Their Families:

Fear and shame keep many crime victims from seeking police help right away, while others may be too emotionally overwhelmed to do so. This fact doesn’t make their pain or trauma any less real. One of the Assembly-passed bills would give the state Office of Victim Services greater latitude to help domestic violence and sex crime victims who may not have a police report. The legislative package also includes a measure that makes domestic partners of homicide victims eligible for crime victims’ compensation and expands benefits to include out-of-pocket expenses, such as counseling.

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