California Passes “Yes Means Yes” Bill
We have all heard of the phrase “no means no” in reference to sexual consent, but what does it really stand for? On a basic level, if someone says “no” or makes it clear that they do not want to participate in a physical encounter, they haven’t given their consent. But if the other party decides to carry on anyway, this constitutes sexual assault.
However, this also means that if one party accuses another of committing such an act, it has to be proven that consent was not given. And as you can imagine, without witnesses or evidence, it can become one person’s word against the other, and ultimately amount to nothing. This is both why so many people get away with these types of crime and so many others are falsely accused.
States and universities in the US have come under pressure recently to change the way they handle such cases, with more and more allegations coming to light, but few convictions being made.
But new legislation has been signed in California, to make it the first state in the US to adopt a “yes means yes” policy instead. Under the bill, guidance will also be provided for colleges for when investigating reports of sexual assault.
The bill, SB 967, was put forward by Senator Kevin de León, who said that if California Governor Jerry Brown signed off on it, it could lead the US in bringing nationwide standards and protocols.
“We can create an environment that is healthy, that is conducive for all students,” the senator said before the vote. “Not just for women, but for young men as well, too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex.”
The legislation, put forward last month and approved on Sunday, dictates that just because a person hasn’t said “no” doesn’t mean they give their consent – silence or lack of resistance is not saying “yes”. The bill also states that someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or are unconscious or asleep, can’t grant consent.
Instead of relying on a clear-cut “no”, now parties will look out for that definite “yes”. This can be done either verbally, by nodding assent, or by actively moving closer to the inquirer. It basically means that everyone involved is responsible for ensuring that consent is acquired in advance of anything happening.
Further training will be required for college faculties on how to deal with allegations, and they will have to provide access to counselling and other resources for victims.
“Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy,” Senator de León said in a statement. “The state of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug. We have shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice, and healing.”
The change is being supported by advocates of sexual assault victims, who believe the legislation will help implement change and consistency across college campuses.
“It is going to educate an entire new generation of students on what consent is and what consent is not,” said UCLA student Savannah Badalich, founder of consent campaign group 7000 in Solidarity. “That the absence of a ‘no’ is not a ‘yes’.”