Queens lawmaker’s sex violence bill would close loophole that helped former AG avoid prosecution

Courtesy of Simotas' office

Astoria Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas introduced legislation to strengthen protections against sexually motivated violence.

Simotas announced the measure Monday that would correct a deficit in the law that Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas identified during her investigation into abuse allegations against former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The Simotas bill, known as A 7082, would combat intimate partner violence by ensuring abusers can be held accountable for physical violence committed for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification where the conduct doesn’t cause injury or the injuries do not rise to the legal definition of physical injury. The limitations in current state law fail to recognize the lasting emotional and psychological harm these acts can cause.

“I want to thank District Attorney Singas for bringing this loophole in the law to my attention,” Simotas said. “This legislation is a way to protect survivors of intimate partner violence by holding the abusers accountable. It is shocking that New York District Attorneys do not have the legal means to bring justice to survivors of violence committed for sexual gratification unless the violence rises to extreme levels. When a survivor has the courage to come forward and report this type of abuse, it is unconscionable that the perpetrator would be able to evade all consequences for their actions.”

Schneiderman resigned in disgrace in May 2018 after he was accused of physically abusing four former girlfriends. Cuomo appointed Singas as special prosecutor to review the allegations and she announced he would not face criminal charges due to “legal impediments” including statutes of limitations.

“Victims of intimate partner violence deserve stronger legal protections, and I’m grateful to Assemblmember Simotas for carrying this important legislation,” Singas said. “This legalization criminalizes non-consensual violence that is inadequately addressed by existing law.”

The Simotas bill would create a new protection against non-consensual violence, defined thus: “A person is guilty of sexual harassment when, with the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, and without consent, he or she slaps, strikes, shoves or kicks another person.” The offense would have a two-year statute of limitations.

“The law as it currently stands is not providing the legal protections victims of intimate partner violence need,” National Organization for Women New York President Sonia Ossorio said. “It shocks the conscience. This new statute would make non-consensual slapping and hitting for sexual gratification a crime. It’s a straightforward proposal everyone should be able to get behind.”

Simotas has been the prime sponsor of several new laws to protect and enhance the rights of sexual assault survivors. These include ending the rape kit backlog, outlawing the premature disposal of forensic evidence kits and creating a sexual assault survivors bill of rights which would let crime victims know that they can be accompanied by a trained counselor during a forensic exam and that they are entitled to free appropriate health care services including the forensic exam, among other rights.

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