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California's 'Yes Means Yes' Bill Enacted in Response to Campus Sexual Assault 'Epidemic'

( [email protected] ) Aug 29, 2014 11:47 AM EDT
State lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would make California the first state to define when "yes means yes" while investigating sexual assault cases on campus.
Sanford University in Sanford, California

State lawmakers recently passed a bill requiring California universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex while investigating sexual assault cases on campus.

Reuters reports that the measure, passed unanimously by the California State Senate, has been called the "yes-means-yes" bill, defining sexual consent between people as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity."

The bill also clarifies that silence and lack of resistance does not indicate consent and that drugs and alcohol also do not excuse undesired sexual activity.

According to ABC News, Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said his bill would drastically change how California campuses prevent and investigate sexual assault. 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."

"With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that's healthy, that's conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex," de Leon said before the vote.

The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown must sign into law by the end of September, is the latest in multiple attempts made by lawmakers, activists and students on universities and colleges to curb sexual assaults on campuses and to reform investigations after allegations are made,

According to the new bill, state-funded colleges and universities in California must adopt strict policies regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, among other actions in order to receive financial aid money.

Some critics feel the bill is overreaching and may push universities into murky legal waters. However, opponents of the legislation say it is long overdue in the school system.

"This bill is very simple; it just requires colleges to adopt policies concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, gang violence and stalking," said Republican Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres. "They should have already been doing that."

The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on U.S. college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to sex assault during their college years.

In January, the OBama administration announced that it would make sexual assault cases a priority, creating a website that provides tips for filing complaints, www.notalone.gov,. The U.S. Department of Education also released a report in May naming 55 colleges and universities across the country facing investigation for their responses to sexual abuse and violence. The University of California, Berkeley was included on the list.