January 30, 2024
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to Protect Survivors, Hold Perpetrators Accountable for Rape

Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to Protect Survivors, Hold Perpetrators Accountable for Rape

Legislation S.3161/A.3340 Modernizes State Law to Ensure Forced Sexual Conduct Can Be Prosecuted as Rape

Governor Hochul Has Prioritized Protecting Survivors, Signing the Adult Survivors Act and Strengthening Support for Survivors of Domestic Abuse

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Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation to modernize New York State law to protect survivors of rape and hold perpetrators accountable for sexual assault. The legislation, S.3161/A.3340, updates the definition of rape in the penal code to ensure that additional forms of nonconsensual, forced sexual conduct can be prosecuted as rape. Since taking office, Governor Hochul has prioritized supporting survivors including by signing the Adult Survivors Act, implementing new protections for survivors of domestic violence, and cracking down on human trafficking.

“We are reassuring survivors that when they walk into a police station or approach the witness stand that the full weight of the law is behind them now going forward,” Governor Hochul said. “Rape will be treated like the horrific crime that it is. The voices have been heard, and we affirm that justice will be served."


Legislation (S.3161/A.3340), also known as the “Rape is Rape” bill, removes the penetration requirement from the rape statutes and also defines rape as vaginal sexual contact, oral sexual contact, and anal sexual contact. The existing statue excluded oral and anal rape from being called rape and required a higher standard for vaginal rape. By modernizing New York’s rape statutes, this legislation ensures all survivors are protected from these crimes and offenders will be held fully accountable.

State Senator 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 In New York State we cannot allow outdated, heteronormative notions of sex to limit our ability to acknowledge that fact and to hold those who commit acts of sexual violence accountable.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.”

Assemblymember Catalina Cruz said, “Today Rape is Rape becomes law, sending a message to survivors that what they endured was rape, and it deserves to be acknowledged as such. This profound shift recognizes the full spectrum of pain of survivors endure. I am deeply grateful to Lydia Cuomo for her bravery on behalf of survivors. She endured a horrific rape that sparked the fight to change our laws. I would also like to thank my colleagues in the Assembly, especially the original sponsor - former Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas who refused to stand by in the face of the injustice Lydia faced. I want to thank Speaker Carl Heastie for championing and passing this legislation year after year, as well as the sponsor in the Senate, Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, for his tireless dedication that finally got the bill through the Senate. Lastly, I want to thank Governor Hochul for signing it into law so that survivors of rape can finally all be seen.”

Advocate Lydia Cuomo said, “It has been 15 years from the moment I was brutally raped and the law failed me. The definition of rape refused to recognize what happened to me as such and allowed my assailant to walk away with merely a sexual assault conviction during the trial. Over the years as I saw the passing of the “Rape is Rape” Act 11 times in the Assembly but fail to become law, I felt hopeless. But now, thanks to the work of Aravella Simotas, who started this legislation and fought for this law for over a decade and Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, who carried it to the finish line, and Governor Kathy Hochul for signing it into law. This legislation is a sign that the voices of survivors matter here in New York. That our pain will no longer be ignored because of an antiquated law and that we can finally seek the justice we deserve.”

Rape will be treated like the horrific crime that it is. The voices have been heard, and we affirm that justice will be served."

Governor Hochul

Since taking office, Governor Hochul has prioritized supporting survivors and holding perpetrators accountable. The Governor signed the Adult Survivors Act in 2022, opening a one-year window during which survivors could bring suit against their abusers. Governor Hochul has also signed legislation to establish a statewide rape kit tracking system, strengthen protections and support for survivors of domestic violence, and crack down on human trafficking. The Governor has enacted new laws that expand revenge porn laws to include “deep faked” images, crack down on sexual conduct against children, and expanding the definition of unlawful coercion to include forcing an individual to share intimate images under threat of physical or emotional harm.

Governor Hochul has deployed new resources across State government to ensure survivors are protected. Last year, the Governor announced new guidance for law enforcement agencies when responding to domestic incidents. The Governor has also announced the availability of a streamlined application for individuals seeking help from the state with crime-related expenses.

In addition, Governor Hochul has taken significant steps to protect individuals in the workforce from harassment and sexual assault. She launched a statewide workplace sexual harassment hotline, signed new laws to protect employees from sexual misconduct in the workplace, and developed a sexual harassment model policy for employers to use.

Governor Hochul's 2024 State of the State includes significant steps to protect survivors of domestic violence. The Governor is proposing bold investments in a set of proven strategies to increase the likelihood of both successfully prosecuting domestic violence cases and seizing firearms, deterring future violence among high-risk offenders, and helping survivors recover:

  • Provide dedicated funding to District Attorneys’ offices in GIVE jurisdictions to expand DV STAT, a model first piloted in Queens that supports collection of evidence and relationship-building with victims even before an arrest is made.
  • Provide funding to jurisdictions to implement “gold standard” risk assessment tools to focus on high-risk domestic violence perpetrators and victims;
  • Provide dedicated funding to GIVE jurisdictions to focus on domestic violence offenders, identifying the most high-risk individuals and engaging them to reduce recidivism;
  • Provide funding to expand the Supervision Against Violent Engagement (SAVE) program to improve public safety among recently released individuals by focusing on domestic violence;
  • Provide funding to local jurisdictions partnering with CACs to build the data collection capacity of local law enforcement and to work with the State's Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence to review the current state capacity of law enforcement information-sharing with regard to domestic violence reports. New York will modernize the use of the critical data available when answering domestic calls for service through the Domestic Incident Reporting and expand the use of the National Incident Based Reporting System so critical and potentially life-saving information and reports are electronic, shareable, and searchable statewide;
  • Continue the Governor’s commitment to providing survivors with the emergency, flexible funding aid they need at their time of crisis via microgrants to be used to cover expenses in emergency situations.
Governor Hochul Signs Legislation to Protect Survivors, Hold Perpetrators Accountable for Rape

Division of Criminal Justice Services Commissioner Rossana Rosado said, “DCJS is proud of our work to help ensure that law enforcement officers throughout New York are trained and informed on how to respond to rape victims and survivors of sexual assault with sensitivity, professionalism, and respect. We thank Governor Hochul for her unwavering leadership on public safety and for signing this legislation into law, which will allow victims’ and survivors’ voices to be heard and perpetrators to be held accountable.”

Office for Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Kelli Owens said, “Thank you Governor Hochul, Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and Assemblymember Cruz, for taking this important step to validate the trauma endured by survivors of sexual assault by holding perpetrators accountable. This legislation exemplifies NY’s and OPDV’s goal of trauma-informed, survivor-centered and culturally-responsive initiatives and actions to support survivors and victims.”

Office of Victim Services Acting Director and Counsel John Watson said, “Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, New York State has expanded protections for victims of crime and ensured funding for programs that provide essential services to victims and survivors of rape, sexual assault, and other crimes. I thank the compassionate professionals who have dedicated their careers to helping their fellow New Yorkers and applaud Governor Hochul for her steadfast commitment to crime victims’ rights and services.”

Former New York State Assemblymember Aravella Simotas said, “Words have power. By modernizing antiquated rape laws, we acknowledge the trauma survivors experience and take one step closer to equality. Thank you, Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, for your legislative drive, focus, and passion; I could not have asked a better advocate to carry this bill. We would not be here today without the Assembly’s unwavering commitment to see this bill become law. Thank you, Speaker Carl Heastie, for your assurance and your friendship. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who was my partner on this legislative priority from its early days, and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, who finally shepherded this measure to its successful conclusion in the Senate. I also thank Governor Kathy Hochul who immediately understood that this bill is about recognizing trauma. Finally, this critical change would not be possible without Lydia Cuomo, who turned tragedy into triumph. She traveled to Albany to tell her story and educate legislators, lawyers and the world about the effects of bad, misogynistic and homophobic definitions to our Penal Code. Thank you for showing us how to move forward and make progress for all survivors of rape.”

District Attorneys Association of the State of New York President and Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn said, “The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has long strongly supported and advocated for the elimination of the penetration requirement in New York State’s rape statutes. We commend the Governor and the Legislature for working so hard on this legislation and bringing our sex crimes laws into the modern era by removing the anti-female, gender-biased penetration requirement that had been part of the rape statutes.”

New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault Interim Executive Director William Rivera said, “For far too long, New York’s antiquated definition of rape has barred survivors from seeking the justice they deserve. Today’s signing marks a monumental shift ensuring the definition of non-consensual sexual contact better aligns with the lived experiences of survivors, thus allowing them to seek their vision of justice. We applaud Governor Hochul for signing this bill and moving towards a more equitable New York for all survivors of sexual violence.”

New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault Executive Director Emily Miles said, “With the signing of this legislation and the expansion of the definition of rape, New York State’s penal law finally comes into alignment with the experiences of thousands of survivors across New York, said Emily Miles, Executive Director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. “The Alliance expresses our deep thanks to Governor Hochul, Senator Hoylman-Sigal, and Assemblymember Cruz for their commitment to ensuring ALL survivors' voices and experiences are valued and honored.”

The Office of Victim Services directly reimburses medical providers for the cost of a forensic rape exam (FRE) if an individual does not have private health insurance or chooses not to use their private health care insurance for the examination. This measure is an exception to the agency’s payer of last resort rule and provides for the personal privacy of victims. The Office of Victim Services also accepts FRE documentation in lieu of police reports, which enables individuals to seek financial assistance and reimbursement from OVS for other expenses related to the crime.

OVS funds and supports 239 victim assistance programs statewide that provide essential services, such as crisis counseling, support groups, case management, emergency shelter, civil legal help and relocation assistance, among other assistance, to victims and survivors of sexual assault and other crimes, and their families. Individuals may visit ovs.ny.gov/connect to find these programs, which provide services at no cost and regardless of whether an individual has reported the crime to police. New York State’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline also is available for confidential support and advocacy 24/7: 800-942-6906 (voice), 844-997-2121 (text) and opdv.ny.gov (chat).

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474 - 8418
New York City: (212) 681 - 4640


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