Gender Based Crimes

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The Manhattan DA’s Office has effectively taken the ignorant and outdated position that only the perfect victim can receive justice. And even then, once the case begins, the survivor has no say in the process of their case. This is especially wrong when the crime is so intimate. You don’t have to look any further than the Harvey Weinstein or Robert Hadden cases for proof of how the current administration has treated survivors of sexual abuse as secondary. 

Every person who reports a sex crime or gender-based violence is entitled to justice and equal respect.

Pro-Survivor Approach

We will once and for all reject both the myth of the perfect victim and the perfect defendant. Just because a person is sought after for their body does not mean they put themselves in a compromising position to be assaulted. The same goes for sex workers— particularly trans and gender non-binary individuals— who are often singled out for abuse and neglected by law enforcement. At the same time, a wealthy person who is well-respected in their profession cannot use their status to shield themselves from prosecution as a sexual predator. To that end, we will also aggressively prosecute image-based sexual abuse (aka revenge porn). 

Sexuality, gender identity, profession, or appearance do not make a person less worthy of dignity or protection under the law. Survivors will be treated with respect and discretion when they interact with the Manhattan DA’s office. All legal and support staff will undergo extensive, trauma-informed training. The staff in the unit will reflect the needs of survivors, including dedicated social workers, counselors, and survivor advocates.

Survivors will be kept informed of the progress of their case, and have a voice in the disposition process. 

But for those who do not or cannot fully participate in prosecution, the Office will use a holistic and out-of-the-box approach that prioritizes survivors to pursue justice in every case. Rather than focusing on the character and past behavior of the survivor, attorneys will be on the lookout for patterns of sexual predatory and violent behavior in the perpetrator’s background. This approach will ensure that the true scope of the harm perpetrated by sexual predators like Harvey Weinstein or Dr. Robert Hadden, is fully uncovered. And because gender-based crimes do not happen in a vacuum, attorneys will look past the four corners of the incident for document crimes, outstanding bench warrants, etc. to investigate each case fully while seeking ways to minimize re-traumatizing survivors. That can mean charging crimes that do not depend on their testimony, i.e. false document charges. 

Charging Discretion

People may commit crimes in self defense against domestic violence, resorting to violence against their attacker. Instead of remanding them to Rikers, the Office will use better discretion to deliver real justice. It is unacceptable that families fleeing abuse find themselves in opposition to the DA.

 

Administrative Data

It’s one thing to make empty promises about representation, it’s another to submit to public scrutiny.

In order to hold the Office accountable to the community it serves, every year, Diana will publish data on sex crimes:

  • How many sex crimes, domestic violence cases, and other cases are brought to the DA’s office
  • How many are prosecuted or not prosecuted
  • How many pleas reached and to what charges
  • How many convictions secured

Diana will also release an annual gender and racial audit of the office itself according to salary and position. The goal of such audits will be to ensure that the Office truly reflects the diversity of all New Yorkers.

Legislative Agenda

Beyond the office itself, the DA’s job is to advocate for changes to the law to promote justice for survivors. New York law has not kept pace with reality and we will pursue a robust legislative agenda together with advocates and service providers to change it.

1.Adult Survivors Act (S.6810/A.8726). The Adult Survivors Act would allow survivors of sexual abuse — who were over 18 at the time of their abuse — a one year lookback window  to file a civil claim no matter how long ago the abuse happened. The ASA is modeled on the Child Victims Act, and is especially necessary to afford survivors a chance at civil justice when the criminal system has failed them. DA Vance failed to prosecute Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, and Dr. Robert Hadden to the fullest extent of the law leaving many survivors beyond the criminal statute of limitations. The next DA must not only aggressively prosecute the powerful, but advocate vociferously for the people— particularly women— Vance failed.

 

2.Rape is Rape (A.00749E/S.08279). The rape statute is currently defined as vaginal penetration and treats oral and anal sexual conduct as separate crimes not included in rape. The “rape is rape” bill would remove the penetration requirement to prove rape and define it as either vaginal, anal, or oral “contact.” It would also codify into law the reality that men and trans people can be raped. The current statute is based on the model penal code, drafted in 1962, which relied on outdated notions of sex, including the idea that sex between men was deviant, and therefore confined to the lesser count of sexual assault. The NYS District Attorney’s Association needlessly opposed this bill. DA Vance claimed it would create an insurmountable hindrance to consecutive sentencing. In fact, a simple clarification in the bill language would have allowed prosecutors across New York to hold rapists accountable for rape no matter the gender of the survivor. 

3.Propose city legislation to give the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) the authority  to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against NYPD officers, reversing the current framework, in which victims of NYPD sexual misconduct have no option but to take their complaints to the NYPD. The DA will establish an interagency agreement between DANY and the CCRB, allowing it to quickly assume control of criminal cases beyond the CCRB’s authority. Victims will also be encouraged to report directly to the DA’s office, understanding that trust will have to be rebuilt.

 

4.Advocate for the legislative agenda of the Sexual Harassment Working Group. The SHWG has proposed a number of bills to make it easier for survivors of sexual harassment and workplace abuse to sue, and to more fully protect government workers, specifically:

  • Prohibit individuals convicted of or who have pleaded guilty to sex crimes, or those with a negative determination or substantiated claims of harassment/discrimination by a government entity, from commercial lobbying.
  • Extend the statute of limitations for actions based on harassment from three to six years (A304/S6322)
  • Ban the use of liquidated damages against victims in any and all non-disclosure agreements (A849-A/S5469)
  • Clarify that employees of elected and appointed officials should have the same harassment and discrimination protections as other workers across the state (A8847/S6828)
  • Clarify that whistleblower protections apply to staff of elected officials
  • Prohibit harassment and discrimination by non-employees (A7220/S4513), aka protection from lobbyists, clients, customers, or vendors