“Rape is Rape”: New Rape Laws Coming to New York

February 13, 2024

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

In January, the Governor signed new legislation, which updates the definition of rape under New York State law. Pursuant to the new rape laws, penetration will no longer be a required element of the crime of rape. Moreover, additional forms of non-consensual, forced sexual conduct can be prosecuted as rape.


What Are the New Rape Laws?

Also known as the “Rape is Rape” bill, the legislation (S.3161/A.3340) removes the penetration requirement from the rape statutes. Previously, the law required sexual intercourse or oral or anal sexual conduct. Now, the Penal Law will require vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact. Under the revised laws, contact between the penis and/or mouth and a person’s vagina, vulva, penis, or anus will be criminalized as rape.

Moreover, the existing laws excluded oral and anal rape from being called rape. Now, all forms of rape – including vaginal sexual contact, oral sexual contact, and anal sexual contact – will be classified as rape.

The new rape laws will take effect September 1, 2024.


Justification for the New Rape Laws

According to the bill, the justification for the new rape laws was cited as, in part, the mistrial of former NYPD officer Michael Pena. While Pena was convicted of other charges, the jury remained deadlocked on charges of rape despite overwhelming evidence of forcible, non-consensual sexual conduct with a Bronx school teacher. Even though there was semen in the victim’s underwear, redness to her genitals, eyewitness testimony, and the victim’s own account of the pain of the attack, Pena was not convicted of the rape.

By modernizing New York’s rape laws, this legislation seeks to ensure that survivors are protected from these crimes and that perpetrators will be held accountable. According to Governor Hochul, “Rape will be treated like the horrific crime that it is. The voices have been heard, and we affirm that justice will be served.”




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