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On Monday, California State Senators Kevin de Leόn, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblywoman and Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Bonnie Lowenthal proposed a bill that would establish consistent response protocols to sexual assault incidents across California colleges.
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 967, would create a standard for consent, prevent suspects from using intoxication or recklessness as a defense and establish a provision that assumes victims could not give consent when incapacitated. It also suggests colleges create victim-centered sexual assault responses, partner with other organizations to assist victims and create prevention programs.
The bill comes in light of President Obama’s announcement of a White House Task Force to prevent sexual assault among college students late last month. The task force’s purpose will be to increase transparency of the issue and share the best practices to discourage violence and support survivors.
In a press release, State Senator and Vice Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus Hannah-Beth Jackson said it is important Senators and the community at large acknowledge the issue and take it seriously.
“This bill is about changing the culture on college and university campuses to a culture of ‘no excuses’,” Jackson stated.
Senator de León said in a press release that the bill seeks to create an environment that supports victims, which is greatly needed at state universities.
“We need to do more to prevent sexual assaults on campus,” de León said. “When they do occur, we need a system that holds perpetrators accountable rather than victimizes survivors a second time. SB 967 will establish an affirmative consent policy to make it clear that only ‘yes’ means ‘yes’.”
Second year feminist studies major Ashley Brown commended the legislation for its focus on ways to prevent, rather than punish sexual assault.
“I feel that this legislation would be beneficial to a lot of people, especially survivors,” Brown said. “Most protocols you see only focus on sexual assault after it happens. They don’t do much by way of preventative measures or for people who’ve experienced it after.”
According to Brown, the protocols set by the legislation are something that should have been established a long time ago.
“It’s weird that none of this is already put in place,” Brown said. “Sexual assault is such a prevalent issue on college campuses that you would think each school would already have adequate programs in place.”
Second year feminist studies and English double major Kelty Kauffman, who is also Co-chair of Take Back the Night, said she favors the expansion of sexual assault protocols in place on campus, especially given the prevalence of such incidences and the social pressures faced by victims.
“We do have the resources so that people can report their assault and things like that, but we have such a strong culture of violence in I.V., and just our society in general, that most people don’t feel comfortable reporting it,” Kauffman said. “Most people don’t know that we do have those resources.”
Kauffman said if the legislation were to be implemented, it may encourage more people to report when they are assaulted.
“This bill does a very good job at addressing the issues at hand,” she said. “It defines what consent is, which is really important and often times really confusing for people. Part of the reason people don’t end up reporting their assault is because victims feel like people won’t believe them, and they don’t know what happened to them was ‘real assault’ or ‘real rape.’”
According to Kauffman, the legislation will reinforce more in depth and widespread knowledge about these often underreported issues.
“So if people were more educated about what consent is, they would be more comfortable and know exactly what happened to them,” Kauffman said. “Hopefully if more people are educated about rape culture, they’ll be more encouraging and supportive of other people.”
Kauffman also said the most important aspect of the bill would put in place a requirement for prevention programming, which are currently inadequate in her opinion.
“This would make people think about [rape culture] and bring it up as something that is constantly talked about instead of a brief introduction to it,” Kauffman said. “I know we have programs like Gaucho F.Y.I but it’s really important that we have programs that really educate them.”
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.