At the end of September, California passed legislation defining when “yes means yes” on college campuses that covers sexual consent and domestic violence. The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation and Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed the bill.
The law requires colleges that receive state funding to have policies covering more than a dozen situations that can arise in sexual assault or domestic violence cases, from protecting privacy to training campus officials and providing counseling for victims.
“Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” the law states, “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”
Rather than using the refrain “no means no,” the definition of consent under the bill requires “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision” by each party to engage in sexual activity.
The proposal requires all colleges taking student financial aid funding from the state to agree that in investigations of campus sexual assaults, silence or lack of resistance does not imply a green light for sex, and that drunkenness is not an acceptable defense, the San Jose Mercury-News reported earlier in August.
“With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that’s healthy, that’s conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex,” said Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, who pushed for the legislation.
There were differing opinions. “It is tragically clear that this campus rape crusade bill presumes the veracity of accusers (a.k.a. ‘survivors’) and likewise presumes the guilt of accused (virtually all men). This is nice for the accusers – both false accusers as well as true accusers — but what about the due process rights of the accused?,” wrote Gordon Finley, professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University.
Advocates for victims of sexual assault supported the change as providing consistency across campuses and challenge the notion that victims must have resisted assault in order to have valid complaints.
“It does change the cultural perception of what rape is,” Sofie Karasek, an activist who sought changes in how the University of California-Berkeley handles such cases, told the Mecury-News. “There’s this pervasive idea that if it’s not super violent then it doesn’t really count.”
The California State University and University of California systems supported the legislation after adopting similar consent standards this year. The law also requires colleges and universities to adopt “victim-centered” sexual-assault response policies and implement comprehensive programs to prevent assault.
“If the governor signs it, this will lead the entire country, the nation,” de Leon said, prior to the signing of the bill. “It’s very difficult to say no when you’re inebriated or someone slips something into your drink.”