Last week, California legislators passed a law that requires universities to implement statewide sexual assault policies based on “affirmative consent” in order to receive funding of financial assistance to students. California is the first state to enforce a standard policy in all universities (state and private).
Unlike the “no means no” standard of consent, consent or affirmative “yes means yes” -policy in the new California law is based on whether a person specifically says yes to any type of sexual activity, but if say not, or are not able to say yes. It’s a subtle difference intend to help emphasize that silence is still not consent and that the burden is on the victim to say no.
According to the bill signed, affirmative consent means also that “consent must be permanent and may be revoked at any time.” This means that a yes is required at all stages, from foreplay games. The law also clarifies that saying the assailant was too drunk to know if the person consented is not a valid excuse and that people should take steps to ensure that they have the consent of your partner (do not take these steps will not be seen as a valid defense in the eyes of the law).
In addition to the mandates of sexual assault, the law also requires schools to adopt specific policies for how to respond to domestic violence, dating violence and stalking (the policies described are the minimum requirement for schools, which are free to add to them). Some of these standards are the answer to victims in a timely manner, to interview the victim, its follow-up interview, interviewing the accused, and the involvement of victim advocates in this process. Universities must also create outreach programs to educate students about these policies.
In light of recent accusations against colleges tampering cases of sexual assault, it seems logical to have a strong policy in place for all schools. Okay, it’s hard to know for sure if laws like these will help to combat sexual assault on campus-but at least it’s a step in the right direction.