Calif. legislature votes 'yes means yes'

Calif. legislature votes 'yes means yes'

Credit: Sean Gallop, Getty Images

The state Senate unanimously approved legislation Thursday that, according to its sponsor, will change how campus officials investigate sexual assault allegations.

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by William M. Welch, USA TODAY

WHAS11.com

Posted on August 29, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Updated Friday, Aug 29 at 11:27 AM

 LOS ANGELES -- California's legislature wants to define in law just when "yes means yes'' on college campuses.

The state Senate unanimously approved legislation Thursday that, according to its sponsor, will change how campus officials investigate sexual assault allegations.

The bill goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until the end of September to sign it into law.

Rather than using the refrain "no means no," the definition of consent under the bill requires "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activity.

If it becomes law, the measure would apply to all colleges and universities accepting state financial aid.

The action came as the state legislature rushed toward scheduled adjournment, and as universities around the country are under pressure to improve handling of allegations of sexual assault. Some critics of the bill say the legislation is overreaching and sends universities into murky, unfamiliar legal waters.

The proposal would require all colleges taking student financial aid funding from the state to agree that in investigations of campus sexual assaults, silence or lack of resistance does not imply a green light for sex, and that drunkenness is not an acceptable defense, the San Jose Mercury-News reported earlier in August.

The bill was pushed by Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, a Democrat.

"With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that's healthy, that's conducive for all students, 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," de Leon said before the vote.

In anticipation of the legislature's approval, the National Coalition for Men, a non-profit group based in San Diego, posted on its website last week an article urging Brown to veto the legislation.

"It is tragically clear that this campus rape crusade bill presumes the veracity of accusers (a.k.a. 'survivors') and likewise presumes the guilt of accused (virtually all men). This is nice for the accusers – both false accusers as well as true accusers — but what about the due process rights of the accused?,'' wrote Gordon Finley, an adviser to the group and professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault supported the change as providing consistency across campuses and challenge the notion that victims must have resisted assault in order to have valid complaints.

"It does change the cultural perception of what rape is," Sofie Karasek, an activist who sought changes in how the University of California-Berkeley handles such cases, told the Mecury-News. "There's this pervasive idea that if it's not super violent then it doesn't really count."

The bill would apply to all California post-secondary schools, public and private, that receive state money for student financial aid. The California State University and University of California systems supported the legislation after adopting similar consent standards this year.

The bill also requires colleges and universities to adopt "victim-centered" sexual-assault response policies and implement comprehensive programs to prevent assault.

"If the governor signs it, this will lead the entire country, the nation," de Leon said. "It's very difficult to say no when you're inebriated or someone slips something into your drink."

Contributing: Associated Press

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