NOW New York Calls for an End to Victim-Blaming Rape Laws

Press Releases / December 17, 2019

Governor Cuomo Committed to Improving Sex Assault Laws


The National Organization for Women – New York works to eliminate inherently sexist laws and create a criminal justice system that provides enhanced justice for survivors of sexual assault.

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women – New York and Executive Director of Women’s Justice NOW said, “Every single night of the week there are women who will be targeted for rape because they are highly inebriated and vulnerable to sexual assault. Drinking to excess is not an invitation to be raped. But the way some of our laws are written, you’d think it was. That is going to change.”

Today the Governor signaled that better protecting victims in these scenarios will be a top priority in the 2020 legislative session.  Governor Cuomo said, “Our laws must protect the people of this state — not condone rape as a punishment for consuming alcohol. With this proposal we are saying enough is enough and taking action to close this nonsensical loophole and help end the culture of abuse once and for all.”

Ossorio added. “Addressing these situations where people who are assaulted while mentally incapacitated due to intoxication or narcotics, but not unconscious, that’s an area where the current law leaves a gaping hole. We are grateful that the Governor prioritizes improving the lives of women and girls each and every year.” 

For instance, rape and criminal sex act (anal/oral) in the 3rd degree make up the bulk of criminal indictments. The statute should expand to include conduct involving a victim voluntarily intoxicated to such a degree that he or she cannot give meaningful consent and the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was not capable of giving meaningful consent.

In 2nd degree rape and criminal sex act, current law restrictively states that the victim must be “rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his conduct owing to the influence of a narcotic or intoxicating substance administered to him without his consent.  

According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, nearly 11 million women in the U.S. have been raped while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A national study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that more than a third of rape victims had either been given a drug or alcohol or were targeted after consuming alcohol.

NOW-NYC ignites change for the women and girls of New York. We advance laws, promote women in politics, fight for reproductive justice, challenge discrimination and violence against women, and act NOW. Women’s Justice NOW is building a future of social justice and equality for all women by mobilizing communities, developing new activist leadership, and providing direct help and advocacy to women.


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