California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed off on the highly anticipated “yes means yes” law that defines sexual consent has a firm “yes” rather than the refrain “no means no.”
State lawmakers last month approved SB967 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, as states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. Campus sexual assault victims and women’s advocacy groups delivered petitions to Brown’s office on Sept. 16 urging him to sign the bill.
De Leon has said the legislation will begin a paradigm shift in how college campuses in California prevent and investigate sexual assaults. Rather than using the refrain “no means no,” the definition of consent under the bill requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”
“Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy,” De Leon said in a statement Sunday night. “The State of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug. We’ve shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice, and healing.”
The legislation says silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. Under the bill, someone who is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep cannot grant consent.
The new standard means that campus authorities will now have to grill the accused about whether and how he obtained consent — rather than the victim to prove that she refused — mitigating the trauma of investigations and encouraging more women to come forward.
“This is amazing,” said Savannah Badalich, a student at UCLA, where classes begin this week, and the founder of the group 7000 in Solidarity. “It’s going to educate an entire new generation of students on what consent is and what consent is not… that the absence of a no is not a yes.”
Many feel that that the law has an obvious flaw. Shikha Dalmia from Reason.com wrote that the law “assumes that sexual assault, already a crime under multiple laws, is the result of miscommunication. The assumption is that somehow one partner (and let’s be honest, it is overwhelmingly the one with a Y chromosome) didn’t ask or realize that the other wasn’t into it. But the fact is: Most assaulters know exactly what they are doing. The vast majority of campus rapes are committed by a small minority of repeat offenders who give not a damn about what the woman wants. And if they can threaten violence, they can also lie about obtaining consent”.
She brings up a big question: How will the law change anything?
Most importantly it brings the college sexual assault crisis into the public eye.
Female students at high-profile colleges including Harvard, Amherst and Columbia accused officials of mishandling their rape cases. In response, President Barack Obama established atask force to reduce the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses.
In July, a report revealed the extent of the campus rape crisis, finding that 20% of colleges did not investigate the assaults they reported to the U.S. Department of Education, and 40% had not investigated a single assault in the past five years.
Finally, it seems that lawmakers are hearing the voices of college students, and doing their part to help all women feel comfortable on their college campus’.