POUGHKEEPSIE — Four members of the Dutchess County Legislature have put forward a resolution to censure Legislator Joseph Incoronato for his offensive and inexcusable statements in 2016 and 2017 that blamed the victims of sexual assault for their attacks.
Legislators Hannah Black (Hyde Park & Staatsburg), Francena Amparo (Wappinger), Rebecca Edwards (Town of Poughkeepsie) and Barbara Jeter-Jackson (City of Poughkeepsie) submitted the resolution Friday in time to be included on the agenda for the January 22 meeting.
During a committee meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature on June 9, 2016, Legislator Joseph Incoronato (Wappinger) made remarks placing blame on the victims of rape and sexual assault for their attacks if they had consumed alcohol or drugs or were unconscious at the time of the attack. When he was interrupted on the floor and the offensive nature of his statements was brought to his attention, he responded that he was simply stating “reality.”
“We cannot tolerate a society that allows victim-blaming, and we must call out any elected officials who would hold with such a shameful belief system,” said Legislator Amparo.
Ironically, Incoronato’s negative comments were made during a question and answer session that followed a presentation about the Start By Believing campaign. The campaign is supported and funded by the Department of Criminal Justice Service and Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services, and its goal is to stop the cycle of responding negatively when someone confides in you that they were raped or sexually assaulted because this worsens their trauma. Doing so creates an environment where victims do not feel safe to come forward so their perpetrators often do not face consequences for these violent crimes.
“Statements like these make it more difficult for victims of predatory crimes to press charges,” said Legislator Edwards, who has been appointed to a new county task force that will review the county’s programs to address sexual violence. “That makes it harder to get help to those who are suffering in the aftermath of rape.”
“Victim-blaming is a prime example of Rape Culture and must not be tolerated,” said Amparo. “It marginalizes the victim and makes it impossible to come forward, while at the same time empowering the abuser.”
More than a year later, when confronted via e-mail about his remarks by a resident, Incoronato defended his remarks and dismissed the criticism. Only when faced with overwhelming pressure from colleagues and the public in an election year did he offer an apology late last year.
“In an era when we are working harder than ever to protect victims, these words perpetuate the same old stereotypes that have pushed these crimes into the shadows. As a legislative body, we must prove to our community that we do not stand by Legislator Incoronato’s damaging statements and we as representatives will stand up to be voices for our constituents who have been victims of sexual assault and rape crimes,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black.
The censure resolution points out the demeaning nature of Incoronato’s statements and notes that he has brought shame and embarrassment upon the citizens of the county and the legislature as a whole.
“We hope other legislators, including many who spoke out against Legislator Incoronato last year, will join us in supporting this resolution for formal censure,” said Black.