Laurie Cumbo | Democratic Councilwoman, 35th District, New...

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Laurie Cumbo | Democratic Councilwoman, 35th District, New York City

Earlier this year, the nation was horrified by headlines of an alleged gang rape of a young woman in a New York City park. Referred to as “The Brownsville Case” in headlines, the details of the case were complicated, violent and disturbing. Five teens were accused of assaulting an 18-year-old woman, who was reportedly having sex with her father in a park at the time of the incident.

Charges against the teens, who maintained that their acts were consensual, were ultimately dropped as the teen said she did not want to go to court, and, as so, recanted her story, but the implications were far reaching. Tragically, there were no “winners” or “victories” in the case, as six teens with a warped sense of sexuality were thrust into the spotlight and then left to sort out the issues on their own.

One woman however, was extremely vocal about speaking up for victims of sexual abuse, as she has been for her entire career. That woman is Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo.

The Brooklyn-bred, native New Yorker is a champion for her community and something of a hometown hero in her district. Since taking office, Cumbo has been a champion for women's rights, sexual assault and domestic violence victims, as well as an advocate against gentrification.

But it was an interview about the Brownsville case on CNN that made her a national name. The interviewer began speaking about the victim's behavior, which Cumbo quickly shut down. She said:

Individuals often talk about the woman. They rarely talk about the individuals who actually committed the (alleged) rape. That's what we should focus on. We shouldn't talk about whether she was drunk, or whether she was properly dressed or the time of the evening that it happened. That's too typical of the situation of how we discuss rape.

Cumbo's words resonated with countless victims, who are so often told that it is somehow their fault. And even as the charges were dropped, Cumbo was critical of the way that too many of our youth are slipping through the cracks.

In an open letter, she wrote:

Before we rush to celebrate the innocence of these five teenagers and her father then slap each other five on social media, let's lament that these young men and a father are told that they did nothing wrong that night. They will not be held accountable for their actions nor will they be given any form of assistance, support, education or understanding of the ramifications of their behavior. There are no winners in this situation and the sacredness of community, respect and order has been violated at the highest level.
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