Last year, 26-year-old schoolteacher Lydia Cuomo was raped at gunpoint by drunken off-duty cop Michael Pena on what was supposed to be her first day teaching second-graders at a Bronx school.
Pena eventually pleaded guilty to two rape charges, but only after an initial trial that bizarrely concluded with a hung jury and a second in which he was convicted of forcing Cuomo to have anal and oral sex, which doesn't count as legitimate rape in the state of New York. Seriously: vaginal penetration is required for a rape conviction.
Now Cuomo is helping spearhead a legislative effort to change state law so rapists that prefer less traditional methods don't get off easy.
"I feel like essentially I had a silver platter of a rape case," she told the New York Daily News. "I had witnesses, I had DNA, I had my own testimony, I had two cops. I had them saying, ‘We admit he sexually assaulted you,' and I didn't get the verdict I needed the first time, and that just highlights to me the problem in the system."
Cuomo will go to Albany tomorrow to support a bill by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Queens) that would add forced oral and anal sex to the state's vaginal rape statute. The bill was introduced last year after Cuomo's case, but went nowhere. "New York lags behind such liberal bastions as South Dakota and Tennessee in how we define rape," Simotas said. (Sarcastically, obviously.) "New York should be at the forefront to protect crime victims."
"The more I talk about it, the more power I take over it," Cuomo said when asked why she's getting political. "Rape is about power. For me, it was a loss of power. This is my story. The more I speak out about it, the more I own it. It's mine."