A New York police officer who brutally sodomized and inflicted oral sex upon a schoolteacher at gunpoint has not been convicted of rape, despite DNA evidence and witness testimonies about the violent attack.
New York’s state law excludes nonconsensual oral and anal sex from the definition of “rape”, calling them “sexual assault” instead, the New York Daily News reports.
“New York lags behind such liberal bastions as South Dakota and Tennessee in how we define rape,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who last year introduced a bill that expanded the definition of “rape”, which failed to get passed. “New York should be at the forefront to protect crime victims.”
Lydia Cuomo, the 25-year-old schoolteacher who was victimized on the first day of her new job at a Bronx charter school, was sexually assaulted by off-duty police officer Michael Pena on Aug. 19, 2011. The cop asked her for directions to the subway at about 6:15 am, while she was waiting to be picked up by her principal.
But the NYPD officer suddenly pointed his 9-mm handgun at the woman’s face, threatening to kill her and violate her in every way imaginable. The officer let her live, but not without sexually assaulting her first.
And the evidence was there: doctors found Pena’s DNA on the victim’s undergarments, a witness testified to seeing the man penetrate the woman, and even NYPD officers admitted that Pena sexually assaulted Cuomo.
“I feel like essentially I had a silver platter of a rape case. I had witnesses, I had DNA, I had my own testimony, I had two cops,” Cuomo said, speaking publicly for the first time in an interview with the Daily News.
Pena was found guilty of committing a criminal sex act and predatory sexual assault, but fell short of being convicted of rape in Cuomo’s case – even though he was convicted of rape in several other cases involving different women.
“Anal’s not rape?” Cuomo said. “On what planet do you live? It never occurred to us that that’s not rape.”
The young woman is now going public with her case to try to change the New York statute limiting the definition of rape. States like Tennessee and South Dakota define forced sodomy and oral sex as rape, while New York has repeatedly failed to change its statute.
“I applaud Lydia Cuomo for speaking out and lending her support for the ‘Rape is Rape’ bill. Her courage in coming forward to shed light on this important issue is truly inspiring,” Simotas said in a statement. Although the bill was rejected by the Assembly in 2012, Simotas and Cuoma both hope to eventually get it passed.
Meanwhile, Cuomo has returned to work at the Bronx elementary school, but continues to deal with the trauma from the attack.
“My life has been shattered – my sense of security, my sense of safety, any and all independence,” she said.
Even though Cuomo’s offender has been sentenced to 10 years to life in addition to 75 years to life for two other rape charges that he pled guilty to, she believes it is wrong for the court to refuse to acknowledge that she too was raped. While Pena will likely spend most or all of his life behind bars, Cuomo hopes to change the definition of rape to incorporate other types of sexual assault.