Affirmative consent bill clarifies sexual assault standards across university campuses.
Governor Jerry Brown approved the “Yes Means Yes” law — or Senate Bill 967 — on Sunday, which mandates that affirmative consent is the determining factor of whether or not consent was given by both parties to sexual activity.
Passed by the Senate at the end of August and co-authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Senator Kevin De León, D-Los Angeles, the bill aims to combat sexual assault on college campuses and further prepare faculty to help sexual assault victims by asserting that a “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” nor does silence mean consent. The law specifically requires public higher education institutions to include an affirmative consent standard as part of their sexual assault policies in order to receive state funds for student financial assistance.
According to Jackson, she foresees the bill changing the way universities across the country deal with sexual assault.
“I see this as a game changer,” Jackson said. “I think the rest of the country will take note. What we’re saying is that there is no excuse for rape, and there’s no excuse for blaming the victims, and there’s no excuse for not supporting the victims.”
According to UCSB’s Title IX Director Ricardo Alcaíno, the current policies of dealing with sexual assault and affirmative consent on campus are already in line with this bill.
“SB 967 will not likely produce any change in the policy language of the current UC Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence, since our current policy already incorporates the affirmative consent language proposed by SB 967,” Alcaíno said in an email.
Jackson said this bill is a “template” providing public universities with standards for training individuals that handle sexual assault cases on campus as well as for defining the specific criteria for violations.
“This sets forth some very, very specific guidelines,” Jackson said. “Not only does there need to be an education process for students, but there has to be a system set up where there are allegations of sexual assault where the individuals who are participating are to be well-trained and [know] what … constitute these violations.”
According to Jackson, the bill details specific disciplinary actions to be taken by a university in the case of a sexual assault.
“It also calls upon strict punishments to be imposed as necessary including … expulsion if it’s determined that the behavior in fact happened and in fact is egregious,” Jackson said. “It encourages schools to really be very, very proactive.”
Jackson also said the bill does not “micro-manage” each university.
“It sets some very strong guidelines as to what the expectations are, and then allows the universities to meet those expectations,” Jackson said.
According to Gema Hernandez Nava, second-year political science and economics major and co-chair of Take Back the Night, the bill will be a positive influence that eliminates the possibility of misinterpreting consent.
“What this does is adopts the ‘yes-mean-yes’ [standard], which basically gives it a more direct and obvious response for anything that is going on during sexual activity,” Hernandez Nava said.
Hernandez Nava also said it is vital that there is more minority representation in programs already on campus geared toward combatting sexual violence.
“I also want to see a lot of change within C.A.R.E. and C.A.P.S.,” Hernandez Nava said, “just to have more people of color, more women of color, more queer people of color so we can more accurately represent our survivors and our campus in general.”
According to Alcaíno, the new provisions of the bill may be examined by the university representatives in accordance with the Office of the President’s sexual assault task force.
“The requirements of SB 967 will likely be discussed and explored by the UC Presidential Task Force on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence and Sexual Assault,” Alcaíno said in the email, “which includes representatives from our campus, to ensure all requirements of the bill are incorporated.”
This article appeared on page 9 of Thursday, October 2, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.