Rape qualifies as a 'gender-motivated hate crime,' New York court rules ahead of Paul Haggis trial

Jeva Lange

A New York appeals court ruled that rape is by nature a gender-motivated hate crime ahead of the trial for Paul Haggis, The Hollywood Reporter learned Friday. The Academy Award-winning screenwriter and producer of Million Dollar Baby and Crash, Haggis stands accused of raping publicist Haleigh Breest at his SoHo apartment in 2013 after the premiere of Side Effects.

The decision by the New York court is significant in part because of a similar case between Lukasz Gottwald, better known as "Dr. Luke," and the singer Kesha. At the time, Kesha had alleged that Dr. Luke raped her and that such an act qualified as gender-motivated violence under New York's Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law, which was enacted in 2000 after the Supreme Court struck down the Violence Against Women Act. During that trial in 2016, New York Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich threw out Kesha's allegation, writing that "every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime."

But this week, New York Appellate Judge Peter Moulton appeared to disagree. "Rape and sexual assault are, by definition, actions taken against the victim without the victim's consent," reads the decision that ruled Haggis would have to face the hate crime claim. The judge added that "coerced sexual activity is dehumanizing and fear-inducing. Malice or ill will based on gender is apparent from the alleged commission of the act itself."

That wording is huge, because "legal precedent has been established that makes rape a gender-motivated hate crime under the Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Law," tweeted Sil Lai Abrams, an author and anti-domestic violence activist. Read the full details of the decision and the case at The Hollywood Reporter.

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