(re: “Biaggi: Drinking or no, rape is still rape,” June 3)
If someone drinks too much and gets sexually assaulted, the defendant can use it against them. An Assembly bill can close this loophole.
Thankfully, the Assemblyman who wrote this bill is in charge of the committee responsible for if and when A.5519 gets voted on. But after months of talking to survivor advocates, nothing has happened.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz stalled further by amending his bill for re-approval by adding one single word. Just one.
This is not the only sexual violence bill his very committee is sitting on, leaving little to no chance they get passed this year.
Protection for women and men from sexual violation is seen as an “issue that can wait.” Fact is, March saw a more than 30 percent increase in reported rape across New York City compared to the same time last year. April saw an increase of more than 50 percent compared to the previous year. One week in April saw an increase by more than 300 percent.
The time to act is now.
Patterns of behavior paint clear pictures of where a person stands. Same is true for people in an organization. A pattern of neglect to address sexual violence by the Assembly’s codes committee gives a silent nod to both would-be and repeat offenders. And they know it.
A 2018 study found 46 percent of college campus rapists admitted to raping 10 or more women.
In truth, the most significant concern the Assembly committee staff members have reported is that innocent men might go to jail if falsely accused. Mind you, the current false accusation rate for rape is somewhere between 2 and 10 percent — identical to almost all types of crime.
The definition of “false accusation” includes if the survivor decides not to move forward with a trial, as well as if the police deem it to be “groundless” due to a delay in reporting, or insufficient evidence.
Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice further details police decision-making in groundless cases of sexual assault. This 2019 study revealed police do not consider women who were risk-takers, immoral or unfeminine to be “genuine victims.” This leaves countless guilty parties free from arrest and conviction.
Last year, the National Registry of Exonerations released study findings that show 54 percent of those wrongfully convicted were put behind bars due to misconduct of police and prosecutors. Unfortunately, New York has one of the highest wrongful conviction rates in the country.
Marty Rosenbaum, the senior team counsel with the Assembly’s codes committee, has extensively studied, collected data, and wrote on wrongful convictions in New York. He noted the issue in New York with perjury, prosecutors and police misconduct in his peer-reviewed study referenced by colleagues and experts.
It is admirable to ensure the justice system betrays no one innocent. But the guilty should not be getting any favors, either. The current rate of reported rape that ends in a conviction is 80 out of 1,000. The current rate of innocent men locked up for a crime they did not commit is 9 out of 1,000. This means 920 people are betrayed by justice for the protection of only nine people.
This pits a “what if” scenario against “what is.” While the worry is that women could potentially weaponize a false allegation, this unicorn fear is somewhat unfounded.
California made the very same drunk sex rape loophole adjustment to its penal codes five years ago. There was no magical spike in false accusations. Instead, the arrest rate the following year was identical, according to California attorney general Xavier Becerra. In fact, the National Registry of Exonerations found that since 1989, there were 52 exonerations nationwide for false accusations of rape. That same time period saw 790 exonerations for murder.
This means it is 15 times more likely one would be falsely accused of murder than rape. This points more and more to an issue of applying the law in the courts, as opposed to the passing of the laws themselves.
The state senate almost unanimously passed the earlier version of this bill last year, and its current version will be voted on soon, if not already. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance fully supports the legislation. He has pushed for an end to its loophole since Summer 2019.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled support for closing this drunk sex rape loophole as his fourth proposal of this 2020 State of the State agenda back in December 2019. However, for the third year in a row, the Assembly’s codes committee is allowing this bill to die, and with it the hope of survivors across our state.
Is the Assembly’s codes committee intentionally trying to enable rapists? Likely not. But without allowing the members of the Assembly to vote on this issue for three years in a row, it certainly looks suspect.
Chris Lake is executive director of Community for a Cause, a nonprofit focused on collaborating with communities and local governments to protect and provide for those in need.