California lawmakers have passed a bill that would make the Golden State the first state to define when “yes means yes.” Democratic Senator Kevin de Leon, who proposed the bill, believes it could produce a shift in how college campuses in California work to prevent sexual assault. The legislation, titled SB967, was passed on Thursday afternoon. It now puts pressure on other U.S. states and universities to alter the way they handle rape allegations.
Defining the delegated act of consent, the bill reads that it is “an affirmative, unambiguous and consciously made decision by both parties to engage in sexual activities.” If Governor Jerry Brown approves the bill, which he has until the end of September to do, it will immediately apply to all colleges and universities that accept financial aid from the state. The current proposal would require all colleges in the state to agree to investigations of sexual assaults. More specific terms of the deal explain that silence or not fighting back are not agreements for sex. The same goes for intoxication.
Senator de Leon of Los Angeles had this to say regarding the new agreement: “With these measures, our state will lead the nation in bringing its standards back to a right place, and protocols of integrity across the board so we can create a safe and rich environment that is healthy.” The senator went on to say, “What is conducive is conducive for all students, not strictly for women but for young adults of each gender as well. In hopes that the next generation of young men can develop healthy and realistic patterns of behavior, and certain boundaries as they relate to the opposite sex.”
However, not everyone in California agrees that passing the Yes Means Yes bill is a positive thing. Critics of the new bill claim that the legislation may be overreaching and could potentially send universities into questionable legal trouble. One of the opposing parties, a non-profit group called The National Coalition for Men, wrote on its website last week a long and specific article calling for Brown to veto the legislation.
Gordon Finley, an adviser of the organization and professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University, wrote his exact thoughts about the bill and why it should be vetoed. In the article he says, “It is unfortunately clear that this particular campus rape bill assumes the details of the accusers are accurate, and therefore presumes the accused (virtually all men) guilty. I realize that this is convenient and nice for the alleged victims, but what happened to the due process rights of the accused?”
Many advocates for victims of sexual assault support the changeand believe that it provides consistency among state campuses to be accountable for valid complaints. Sofie Karasek, an activist for change in sexual assault cases, told the Mercury-News, “I believe the new legislation will help change what society’s perception of what rape is. There seems to be this really strange and barbaric idea that if the assault being done is not super violent then it has no credence.” Senator de Leon had this to say in his final thoughts on passing California’s Yes Means Yes bill, particularly as it pertains to colleges, “It’s pretty difficult to tell somebody no when you are drunk or someone has slipped something into your drink.”
By Theodore Borders