According to new legislature that was passed by California’s state Senate, it could become a requirement for public schools receiving funds for student financial assistance to establish a “yes means yes” standard.
Campaigns in the past meant to address sexual assault had a similar refrain “no means no”.
Consensual sexual relations have always been difficult to define and in today’s society, universities are repeatedly being put under pressure of handling rape allegations. Consequently, California has tried to take the next step in legislature so that the state has a standard for when “yes” indeed means “yes”.
As other universities intend on defining these aspects as a way of protecting victims, more and more schools are establishing standards that clearly distinguish when consent was given and when it wasn’t.
In May, legislation was passed that should come before the Assembly in August. According to this new law, schools would have to define an “affirmative consent standard” that would be usable in sexual assault allegations and investigations. Within this legislature, it is connected to the affirmative (even if ambiguous) and conscious decision by both parties to engage in sexual activities.
Additionally, the piece of legislature clearly states that silence or lack of resistance do not represent consent, and neither does consent given by people under the influence of alcoholic beverages, on drugs, unconscious or asleep.
The situation is so delicate that universities had to categorize nonverbal signs of consent (as the nodding of the head or moving closer to a person).
These pieces of legislature have become necessary after a White House task for reported that among female college students, 1 in 5 would be a victim of sexual assault. Moreover, an unprecedented event took place when the US Education Department decided to release the names of schools that were under federal investigation because of their mishandling of sexual abuse allegations.
Despite the fact that other states also have similar legislatures (Maryland, Texas, and Connecticut), it is only in California that consent standards are required.
Some have met this new proposal with criticism, explaining that such a bill was neither reasonable nor enforceable.
According to Ada Meloy, general counsel at the American Council on Education, it is very difficult to investigate such cases because of the fact that both individuals were likely on alcohol or drugs and it may prove tricky to decide if consent was obtained.
The bill is also viewed with criticism because, in the opinion of John F. Banzhaf III, Law school professor at the George Washington University, the bill would radically change the definition of rape.