Violence Against Women

California Legislators Pass Affirmative Consent Bill to Combat Campus Sexual Assault

California legislators passed a bill last week that would require state colleges and universities to adopt a standard of unambiguous, affirmative consent for students who engage in sexual activity.

via Dave Bledsoe
via Dave Bledsoe

SB 967 is the first of its kind. It defines affirmative consent as: “Affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” Affirmative consent does not include silence, lack of resistance, or “consent” given while intoxicated, and the consent has to be continually given throughout the sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. All people involved in the sexual activity must ensure that they have the affirmative consent of others.

The bill will radically change the current standard of proving sexual assault, which requires victims of sexual assault to demonstrate that they did not consent.

“Rape culture dictates that along with proving that they were raped, survivors must also prove that they fought ‘hard enough’ to stop it,” Autostraddle reports. “Not saying ‘no’ or not physically fighting someone off is understood to mean ‘yes’ . . . By not accepting silence as consent, California’s affirmative consent bill nudges colleges away from rape culture and provides protection for marginalized groups.”

The bill, authored by Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), will also require schools to implement a comprehensive prevention program and will help victims of sexual assault access medical care, legal assistance, counseling and other services. It now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature.

The Department of Education reported in May that 55 schools across the United States are currently under investigation for their handling of sexual assault claims. Many legislators and the White House have been looking for ways to reduce campus sexual assault and hold college and universities more accountable. Just this past July, Senator Barbara Boxer  (D-CA) and Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA-49) introduced the Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act), which would require colleges and universities to designate an independent advocate to support survivors of sexual assault. Senator Boxer is now pushing California colleges and universities to voluntarily implement her proposed federal legislation.

Media Resources: Los Angeles Times 8/28/14; NPR; Autostraddle; California Legislative Information 2/10/14; Feminist Newswire 4/29/14, 8/28/14; GovTrack

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