Is Affirmative Consent the Answer to Sexual Assault on College Campuses?
The following paper deals with a Senate Bill 967 that is proposed to control the number of sexual assaults occur on campus the public as well as private universities of California. A Senate Bill 967 has been introduced by Senator Kevin de Leon, and the objective of this law is to establish certain criteria following which the public and private colleges in California will manage with the sexual assault incidents occurred on campus. The law requires all the universities and colleges in California to pass a mandate ensuring that all of the students will give an active or affirmative consent before engaging in any sexual activity. What is more, it is very unfortunate that there are many rape cases nearby the college campus and this law mainly focuses on telling the students about the right way to engage in any sexual activity. The objective of “affirmative consent” emphasized in this particular law provides a protection to the girls that are being sexually exploited. According to SB-967, a man will be considered as guilty if he has not asked for the consent of the girl about sex. In addition, the purpose of this law is to safeguard the unconscious girls and other women who do not want to be a part of sex.
It has been witnessed that most of the political groups and other parties were found in favor of this law namely, the federal government, Congress, the sexual assault victims, and the student activists. In addition to this, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Obama’s administration, and California Governor Jerry Brown are fully supporting this cause. Apart from this, some of the feminist groups, especially a feminist writer named Amanda Hess and opposition parties were found against this law as it does not define rape in an effective manner and affirmative consent is not usually practiced before sex in the society.
Earlier this year, the United States Department of Education released a report that found nearly 20% of female college students have been sexually assaulted, with only 12% of those attacks ever being reported (Mcgreevy and Mason). The department also released a list of 55 schools that were being investigated for failing to properly deal with sexual assault complaints. Nearly 50 colleges and universities nationwide, including UCL USC and Occidental College, were under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault allegations. Similar stories have been recounted by students with regularity across the state and the nation. More than a decade ago, an investigation by The Sacramento Bee found that University of California campuses had skirted federal law by underreporting crimes, specifically sexual assaults .
“Even in the second decade of the 21st century, college campuses have not consistently put rape victims first. This must change. This is just a start “, said Senator Kevin de Leon. This law reviews how the governmental and nongovernmental universities report the incidents of sexual assault and manage with the victim and the guilty person, and how the law is enforced and trials are managed. In April 2014, Sen. Kevin de Leon brought in Senate Bill 967 to set the foundations for the public and private universities to deal with this rapidly growing social issue. It was inclined by Occidental College situated in Los Angeles. Additionally, there have been 37reports of the victims that the schools are not handling the reporting system effectively.
California’s bill comes after more than a year of pressure from the federal government, Congress, victims and student activists for higher education institutions to do more to prevent the widespread sexual assault occurring on the nation’s campuses. Colleges and universities have been changing their policies for months in response to federal pressure. And after recent changes in the Violence against Women Act that require colleges to explicitly report their prevention efforts, many colleges will be unveiling new policies and programs this fall where they never existed before. The bill requires both public and private colleges that receive state funds for student aid adopt the policies and protocols outlined in the bill. In addition to the new consent standard, the bill also mandates prevention an outreach programs for sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and date violence reports .
The lawmakers, led by Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both Democrats, said that the bill responds to a national problem of campus sexual assault and the publicized cases of colleges mishandling investigations. The Obama administration has taken on the issue, making public recommendations for how colleges should respond to the problem and more aggressively pursuing institutions that mishandle sexual assault cases .
In response, California legislators have approved the bill and California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law requiring all state colleges to adopt the so-called "yes means yes" standard for determining whether a student consented to engaging in sexual actions . The law requires both public and private colleges that receive state funds for student aid adopt the policies and protocols outlined in the law. In this way, California gas become the first ever region that has implemented the “yes means yes” criteria for engaging into sexual act. The Governor Jerry Brown has signed this law saying that it will educate the students about their protection rights and appropriate way for the sexual activities, which will lead to reduction in the incidents of sexual assault.
Under the new legislation, sexual activity among California college students would require affirmative consent, which the bill calls "conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." The bill also prohibits intoxication -- either on the part of the victim or the accused -- also mandates prevention an outreach programs for sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and date violence reports (Mcgreevy and Mason). In addition, colleges would face stiffer financial penalties for mishandling sexual assault cases. The new measure would allow the Education Department to impose a fine as high as 1 percent of a college’s operating budget for violating the bill’s new provisions as well as existing requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Contrary to this, a feminist writer named Amanda Hess opposed the idea of California law of sexual assault as it required the consent for the sexual act in an explicit way, which cannot be practiced most of the times. Further, she pointed that the consent can be given through gestures and body language, but in the light of this law, it will be considered as a rape because the explicit verbal consent “yes” in not given. In addition, she believes that the law is for better society and controlling the sexual assaults, but it is not appropriate that such activities are regulated by the government. Furthermore, it has been stated in the law that silence during the sexual intercourse means that no consent is gained before this activity, which means that a girl must be moaning in order to show that she agrees with what is happening to her. Similarly, if a girl is smiling, then it is also a type of silence, which poses a threat to the males. Moreover, it is stated in the law that previous sexual relationship with the partner is not considered as a signal of consent, and permission should be taken each time in the form of “yes” . Finally, Senate Bill 967 was passed with an intention to protect the girls and reduce the sexual exploitation, but it is posing a serious threat to the males as they can be considered as rapist by not getting a “yes” before the sexual activity.
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Mcgreevy, Patrick and Melanie Mason. California lawmakers pass 'yes means yes' campus sexual-assault bill. 2014. 19 November 2014 <http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-yes-means-yes-sexual-assault-bill-20140829-story.html>.
Reuters. California governor signs 'yes means yes' college sexual assault bill. 2014. 19 November 2014 <http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/29/us-usa-california-sexcrimes-idUSKCN0HO07D20140929>.
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Young, Cathy. Campus Rape: The Problem With ‘Yes Means Yes’. 2014. 19 November 2014 <http://time.com/3222176/campus-rape-the-problem-with-yes-means-yes/>.