California broke ground earlier this week when it became the first state to define sexual consent as a means to proactively prevent sexual assault and rape, and to better advocate for survivors of sexual crimes.
Reports NPR’s Bill Chappell, “Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law that makes California the first in the nation to have a clear definition of when people agree to sex. The law goes further than the common ‘no means no’ standard, which has been blamed for bringing ambiguity into investigations of sexual assault cases.” SB-967, or the “Yes Means Yes” law, represents a milestone for women’s rights and serves as an active enforcer of sexual consent on college campuses in the state of California.
The Department of Education is currently investigating at least 55 colleges and universities for “violating federal law in their handling of sexual violence and harassment cases,” reports Chappell. College campuses, and specifically college fraternities, are notorious for being an environment rife with rape and sexual assault. Defining consent in legal terms, and progressive ones at that, will hopefully curb instances of sexual violence.
SB-967 defines consent as follows:
“Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.
The way this law frames “Affirmative Consent” is so critical; SB-967 explains that the absence of “no” is not consent, nor is another person’s silence. Hopefully, this law will prevent more sexual assaults from occurring on college campuses and beyond, and will allow victims of sexual crimes to feel safer about coming forward.
Read the law in full by visiting California Legislative Information.