On Thursday November 29, 2018 The Gender and Equality club gave the High School community the unique opportunity to meet and listen to Shannon Lucey, an Assistant District Attorney for The Sex Crimes Unit of Manhattan. Lucey has worked as a New York ADA for 18 years, starting her career prosecuting misdemeanor crimes and later moving to felonies. In her career, Lucey has aided the successful prosecution of thirty cases in her career, but with her work in The Sex Crimes Unit Shannon has made the personal choice not to be assigned to cases involving child abuse “for her own piece of mind.”
Lucey began by telling us how the office is structured; there are about 500 ADAs as well as an additional 700 support staff and four pre-law students who work as paralegals and aid the ADAs in finding the resources they need to prosecute their cases. These four spots are extremely coveted and are chosen from hundreds of applications of pre-law students hoping to gain some hands on experience before entering law school.
The second thing Lucey talked about is the reporting and case building process when someone is sexually assaulted. The majority of cases she sees are victims coming to the precinct directly after being hospitalized for a rape kit, and, upon arrival at the station, victims are asked to describe their assault in as much detail as possible, because within one encounter there may have been multiple crimes that are able to be prosecuted. It is important to note that when a complaint is made, both the accused, and the accuser are brought to the precinct to give statements.
ADA Lucey also spoke to us about the statute of limitation concerning reporting an incident. The statue of limitation for most sexual assaults is five years, unless it is rape in which case the statute never runs out, or if one is a minor when the assault takes place. If one is a minor when a sexual assault takes place, the five year statute clock does not begin running until one turns 18. For those who are afraid, or unwilling to report their assault at a precinct, the department offers a hotline where victims can speak to an expert and get more information on the process anonymously before deciding whether they want to report or not. Victims are never forced to report.
Lucey also shared with us the different types of sexual assault and how the laws surrounding them vary throughout the US. Two of the most common types of sexual assault are: rape, which is defined as vaginal penetration, and criminal sexual acts, which are defined by forced oral, digital or anal penetration. Also commonly seen are unlawful surveillance, the production/dissemination of intimate photos or videos without consent, and statutory rape, which renders anyone under the age of 17 unable to consent to sex acts. Different types of sexual assault, for example, the act of groping can be classified as different severity depending on the degree.
The last thing ADA Lucey left the group with were tips and things to be careful for as young men and women living in a city as unpredictable as Manhattan. Especially in cases of unlawful surveillance, the perpetrators of sexual violation are most often who you would not expect. Most assailants charged with taking photos of women’s genitals up their skirts on the subway are very average looking business men. Being aware of one’s surroundings is an important preventive measure for any type of sexual assault. Some other tips ADA Lucey gave for us young women (and men) to protect ourselves from predators are: not traveling alone, always letting a friend or parent know where you are, taking photos of cab and car service licence plates, avoiding using one’s phone while walking, avoiding holding doors and elevators for strangers and, most importantly, meeting new people (internet dating etc.) in public locations.
At the end of our discussion, I asked ADA Lucey about herself and how her job affects other facets of her life. “I compartmentalize my work and focus on how I am helping people. Despite my best efforts to seperate my home and work life, I am still human so what I see still takes a toll,” ADA Lucey said.
As a young woman, I am personally very grateful for the work ADA Lucey and everyone in the department does to get justice for people who are victims of these atrocious crimes. Without the professionalism, empathy, and unrelenting efforts of these individuals and the entire office those in dangerous situations that have been violated would not have a safe forum to share their experiences and hold the perpetrators of these violations accountable for their actions.