Assemblymember Cahill: Newly Expanded Sexual Assault Law Supports Victims, Sets Tougher Penalties

August 19, 2003

Sexual assault is a brutal crime that leaves deep, permanent scars. If we can prevent one more assault from occurring, help one more victim heal or take one more predator off the street, we will have made a difference.

The Assembly did make a difference by passing a bill, which I supported, amending the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000 (SARA). This measure, signed into law (Ch. 264 of 2003), gives more protection and support to victims of sexual assault while applying more severe punishment toward the criminals perpetrating these horrible crimes. The Assembly’s amendments will make our streets safer and offer a measure of comfort to people going through such traumatic events.

Lending victims a helping hand

The bill creates a Sexual Assault Forensic Payment Program so victims will not have to deal with bureaucratic red tape like insurance forms and ensures that health care providers can continue providing invaluable services.

The last thing a sexual assault victim should be forced to do is deal with mountains of paperwork. More importantly, we should not make a victim’s inability to pay a barrier to getting the kind of medical attention they need.

Cracking down on sexual assault

Marriage does not give someone license to sexually assault a spouse. The Assembly sent a clear message that sexual assault of any kind is wrong by eliminating loopholes under which a defendant can use marriage as a defense against forcible rape or other sexual abuse charges. In tightening up these laws, abused spouses will have a greater ability to get out of horrific situations.

SARA also strengthens the statutes dealing with forcible touching and persistent sexual abuse and ensures that those who are repeat misdemeanor sexual offenders can be pursued as felons. In addition, the new law expands the list of crimes that would fall under persistent sexual abuse and sets tough penalties.

Preventing date rape

The 2000 SARA bill made it a felony to knowingly administer a controlled drug to a person for the purposes of incapacitating and sexually assaulting them. The new amendments enhance date rape drug penalties to include prescription medication as an illegal substance when used to incapacitate a victim and increase felony penalties for the possession or sale of GHB, which is considered the most notorious and dangerous date rape drug.

Crimes perpetrated by sexual predators are severe and the punishment should reflect this. The Assembly’s amendments strengthened New York’s SARA laws by expanding the scope of sexual assault and applying stricter penalties towards the actions of the assailant. By toughening up the current law to deter sexual abuse and better protect victims of sexual assault, we can all be safer.