Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - Page 7 News List

California adopts ‘yes means yes’ sexual assault rule

PARADIGM SHIFT:Proponents said that the bill signed by California Governor Jerry Brown would change the way rape allegations are investigated on college campuses

AP, SACRAMENTO, California

California Governor Jerry Brown announced on Sunday that he has signed a bill that makes California the first state in the US to define when “yes means yes” and adopt requirements for colleges to follow when investigating sexual assault reports.

State legislators last month approved State Bill 967 by California State Senator Kevin de Leon, as states and universities across the US 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 that the legislation would 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 on 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.

Legislators say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person.

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault supported the change as one that is expected to provide consistency and challenge the notion that victims must have resisted assault to have valid complaints.

“The affirmative consent standard will help change the revictimizing, insensitive reporting procedures, instead allowing students to seek help and hold perpetrators accountable,” University of California Associated Students Sexual Assault Commission chair Meghan Warner said.

“This is a major victory for all California students, not just survivors. I hope the rest of the nation will follow suit,” she added.

The bill requires training for faculty reviewing complaints so that victims are not asked inappropriate questions when filing complaints. The bill also requires access to counseling, healthcare services and other resources.

When legislators were considering the proposal, critics said the bill was overreaching and sends universities into murky legal waters.

Some Republicans in the California State Assembly questioned whether statewide legislation is an appropriate venue to define sexual consent between two people.

There was no opposition from Republicans in the state Senate.

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