A coalition including New York City Council Members and state lawmakers is drafting a regulation that would classify any sexual act between a police officer and a detained arrestee in their custody as rape—and no, this is not a law that already exists in New York. Councilman Mark Treyger is spearheading the movement, prompted by the disturbing story of an 18-year-old woman who was handcuffed and raped by two police detectives in September.
The officers, Edward Martins and Richard Hall, resigned from the New York Police Department on October 30. The same day, they were indicted on 50 counts of rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, coercion, and receiving a bribe, reported The Intercept. DNA from Martins and Hall was found on the teenager, but—and you might want to sit down for this—the officers claimed they both had consensual sex with the woman, while she was handcuffed in an unmarked police van.
The idea that this could have been consensual in any way is pretty impossible to believe, given the situation and also the power imbalances of age, gender, and authority. “A new law would have no application in this case. This was a brutal rape,” the woman’s attorney, Michael David, told The Intercept. “There can be no suggestion of consent.” David did add, though, that a law defining sex between an arrestee and their detainer could help future cases.
“People are shocked that this is not already a law,” Mark Treyger told The Intercept. Current New York law states that sex between an inmate and an officer within a prison or a police station is considered rape, because “a person in custody cannot give consent,” wrote The New York Daily News. Additionally, having sex while on duty and utilizing official authority for personal gain are against NYPD policy, but not conclusively illegal.
The New York City Council does not have the power to change rape laws, but sex while in police detention could be made a felony with support from state-level lawmakers. Though this alone wouldn’t solve deeply-embedded issues of power abuse, the bill could help survivors, particularly from having to relive trauma and “prove” a lack of consent.
Top photo via Flickr / Dave Hosford.
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Lydia Wang is a writer, pug enthusiast, and hopeless romantic. She lives in New York, writes for BUST, and overshares on Twitter: @lydiaetc.