A bill that would require affirmative consent by California public college students about to engage in sex was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, his office announced over the weekend.
Campus adjudication panels weighing sex-assault allegations will be required to determine if accusers actually said yes, verbally or otherwise, to the prospect of sexual contact.
The bill makes clear that saying nothing or doing nothing is not consent, although some critics say the standard takes the law too far into the bedrooms of young adults because sex isn't a legal negotiation and is often nonverbal behavior.
The office of L.A. area state Senator Kevin De León said that even written consent would suffice under the legislation.
But De León emphasized that the bill was more about ensuring that campus administrators don't let students get away with rape in cases where victims were inebriated or less-than-verbal.
"With 1 in 5 women on college campuses experiencing sexual assault, it is high time the conversation regarding sexual assault be shifted to one of prevention, justice, and healing," he said.
UCLA student Savannah Badalich spoke out in favor of the bill, SB 967, saying:
Survivors for years have felt guilty or shamed for their own assault, as if their silence was consent. I know how they feel, because I blamed myself too – and ultimately, that felt like a second assault, a second betrayal. With SB 967, we are at long last creating a culture of consent, acceptance, understanding, and support for all students on our campuses. Survivors are grateful for this new definition and the culture it will create.
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The language of the bill lays out the new rules, which administrators must ensure are enforced lest their campuses lose state financial assistance:
"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.
On Sunday Brown's office said he signed the legislation, which was inspired in part by the release earlier this year of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights roster of 55 schools that face inquiries over their handling of sex-assault allegations.