‘Yes means yes’ law redefines consent

It is refreshing to hear of measures that are being taken to handling sexual assault on university and college campuses, rather than endorsing and supporting the rape culture that is seemingly endemic within them. Pioneering the way in which campuses deal with sexual assault allegations, the state of California has introduced law SB967, or the “Yes means yes” law. Unanimously approved by the California state Senate on Aug. 28, SB967 requires colleges and universities to evaluate disciplinary charges of sexual assault under an “affirmative consent” standard as a condition for qualifying for state funds.

This means that in order for a sexual encounter to be considered consensual, there must be verbal affirmative consent from both parties. This differs from the previous standards of “no means no,” which means that it was considered assault if one of the participants was actively refusing the encounter. The law also clarifies that consent must be “conscious and voluntary,” and that silence cannot be interpreted as consent, which takes into consideration victims that have been drugged or have fallen unconscious. Aside from a disturbing commentary on our current management of sexual assault on campuses, this law offers the potential to redefine how we approach sexual assault, not only in our cultural but also our legal rhetoric.

Perhaps the most progressive aspect of this law is that it puts the burden of proof on the attacker, rather than the victim. “No means no” meant that the assaulted party had to prove their unwillingness to participate in the sexual activity in question. Certain critics of the current bill have pointed out that the “yes means yes” law could lead to injustice for the accused. Although valid concerns, it seems that these criticisms don’t take into account the historical and current practice of victim blaming that seems to be supported by most legal rhetoric. It is estimated that the overwhelming majority of victims of sexual assault don’t report their attacker due to the difficulties of proving the assault, and the emotional strain of operating within the existing legal framework. The “yes means yes” law has the potential to change that.

Although this law perhaps isn’t the most proactive in preventing assaults, it will revolutionize the ways in which universities deal with those allegations, and will, perhaps, pave the way for legal institutions nation- and world-wide. In addition to the “yes means yes” policy, the bill requires campuses to adopt transparent sexual assault policies, protect confidentiality, and provide training programs for those involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault. Other critics point out that it is unwise to force universities into these murky legal waters without any sort of guiding framework, but where better to pioneer such a law than campuses, on which there seems to have been an epidemic of sexual assault throughout the past few years?

Let us show solidarity with students that have been victimized by sexual assault and show support for changes made in the way that university administrations deal with allegations of sexual assault. Perhaps this will finally encourage the reassessment of our endorsement of rape culture.

– See more at: http://argosy.ca/article/%E2%80%98yes-means-yes%E2%80%99-law-redefines-consent#sthash.bZZ7BPhn.dpuf

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