California Approves ‘Yes Means Yes’ Sexual Assault Law

The new law changes the definition of consent and requires higher education institutions to uphold the law as a condition of receiving state funds for student financial aid.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill this week that requires colleges and universities in the state to adopt new sexual assault policies that radically change what constitutes consent, according to a report by the SFGate. Critics of the bill say it produces an unfair shift of the burden of proof to the accused in a sexual assault case.

Traditionally, consent has been defined as whether or not a person said “no.” Under the new law, consent is defined as whether or not both parties say “yes.” Many colleges and universities already use a standard known as “affirmed consent” when investigating sexual assault allegations, but this new law would require higher education institutions to use the standard as a condition of receiving state funds for student financial aid. This law only applies to campus disciplinary hearing and not to criminal proceedings in California.

The bill SB967, just sighed into law, comes at a time when higher education institutions across the nation are being criticized for their handling of sexual assault allegations. According to the bill’s author, Sen. Kevin de Leon (D Los Angeles), the legislation makes sure the deck is not stacked against those who report an attack. In a statement this weekend Leon said, “Students shouldn’t have to live in fear while pursuing their dreams of higher education.”

The new law defines affirmed consent as “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity” with the consent ongoing throughout.  A “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence.” The bill also says that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated or unconscious.

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Tagged with: Legislation

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