California adopts ‘yes means yes’ sex-assault rule

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SACRAMENTO - As news of sexual assaults on college campuses in San Diego continue to make headlines, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Monday redefining sexual consent.

Rather than using the previous stance of "no means no," the law explains that only a stern “yes” can be taken as consent of sex.

Lawmakers say, it aims to improve the way that campuses deal with accusations of sexual assault and challenges the belief that victims of sexual crimes need to have resisted assault in order to have valid complaints.

The consent however, according to lawmakers, can be non-verbal, if it is explicit.

It would apply only to California colleges that receive state funding for student financial aid.

San Diego State University has similar law already in place.

“Societal norms aren’t acceptable here, we want our students to understand that sexual violence isn’t acceptable and consent is one piece of that,” said Jessica Rentto with SDSU. “Just because they don’t verbalize no doesn’t mean they are consenting to the activity.”

Last week, SDSU students rallied in favor of the “yes means yes” bill in light of the university receiving three sexual assault reports in the last month.

“Hearing a stern answer, yes or no is very important,” said student, Aaron Lee. “Sometimes she might be the one asking for it too … it could go either way.”

Officials at Cal State San Marcos are also investigating an alleged rape from last week at the Quad Residence Hall.

While the law may help to educate students, criminal defense attorney Vikas Bijaj argues that it is vague and may be difficult to enforce.

“It doesn’t really change things. It will still be a he said, she said thing but now there is an additional hook now for the prosecution which means if there isn’t clear evidence of yes then prosecutions can run rampant in this this jurisdiction,” said Bijaj. “There will be one more check and balance and one more investigatory step that is taken."

The law requires training for faculty-reviewing complaints so that victims are not asked inappropriate questions when filing complaints.
Schools will also be required to grand students access to counseling, health care services and other resources.

The legislation says silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. Under the bill, someone who is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep cannot grant consent.

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