California Enacts ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law Defining Sexual Consent on College Campuses
In a bid to address the epidemic of rape on college campuses, California has become the first state in America to pass a law defining sexual consent and requiring schools to define “affirmative consent” when adjudicating sexual assault cases.
The new law, which was drafted by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), requires an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement between all involved individuals to engage in sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. A person who is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep cannot consent to sex.
De Leon believes the new legislation will change how colleges prevent and investigate rape and sexual assault claims.
“Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy,” De Leon said in a statement. “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.”
In addition to defining consent, the law mandates training for faculty who review claims of rape and sexual assault in order to ensure victims aren’t forced to face or answer inappropriate questions about their ordeals. The law also requires access to counseling, health care services and other resources.
Women’s rights advocates hailed the law’s passage.
“This is amazing,” University of California, Los Angeles student Savannah Badalich, who also founded the sexual assault survivors’ group 7000 in Solidarity, told the AP. “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.”
But critics said the law is overly broad and could create significant confusion for college administrators and students. Although no Republican state lawmakers voted against the bill, some GOP assemblymen questioned whether it was appropriate to define sexual consent via legislation.
University of California President Janet Napolitano recently announced that the UC system is voluntarily establishing an independent advocate to support sexual assault and rape victims on all 10 UC campuses.
According to the National Institute of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, As many as one in four female college students have experienced actual or attempted rape or sexual assault. Nine out of 10 victims of college rape or sexual assault knew their attacker, with one in eight rapes and 35 percent of attempted rapes occurring during a date. Less than five percent of completed or attempted rapes of college women were reported to law enforcement authorities.
Although many California colleges enjoy reputations as bastions of progressivism, rape and sexual assault victims at many of the state’s schools have accused campus police and administrators of failing them.
Earlier this year, for example, 31 current and former UC Berkeley students filed federal Title IX complaints alleging school officials failed to investigate reports of serial rapists, took months to adjudicate sexual assault cases and dismissed rape threats as jokes.