Victim Shines Spotlight on Definition of Rape

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A New York woman is leading the fight to change the way New York State defines rape. 

Lydia Cuomo wants the state to expand the definition of rape to include forced oral or anal penetration.

"That wasn't being called rape and it was it a little bit offensive," she told WNYC's Soterios Johnson. "It's very unsettling to hear that and know how that happened to you and know how I think of it in my mind, yet it wasn't being called rape."

A bill working its way through Albany right now would broaden the definition of rape. Current law only recognizes forced vaginal penetration as rape.

Cuomo, who is not related to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has come forward publicly to advocate for the legislation. She was assaulted at gunpoint in 2011 by former NYPD officer Michael Pena. He was found guilty of criminal sexual acts, but a jury could not agree to convict on the charge of rape, based on the current narrow definition. Pena later pleaded guilty to two rape charges to avoid another trial.

The bill, known popularly as the "rape is rape" bill, is sponsored by Queens Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. She introduced the bill last year following the trial of Pena. Another bill, sponsored by state Sen. Catharine Young, also seeks to expand the definition. Both bills are in committee.

Listen to Soterios Johnson's full interview with Lydia Cuomo above.