On Sunday, without comment, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that changes the standards for sexual assault and requires college campuses to adopt policies for rape responses that include an “affirmative consent” stand, which puts responsibility on someone engaging in sexual activity to obtain an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement from his or her partner.
This was nationally watched legislation that ultimately was backed by the chancellors of all three college systems: the California State University, the University of California, and California Community Colleges.
Senate Bill 967 author Senator Kevin de Leόn (D-Los Angeles) said, “Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy. 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.”
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said, “This bill is about changing the culture on college and university campuses to a culture of ‘no excuses.’ No excuses for rape, no excuses for blaming the victims of rape, no excuses for not supporting these victims, and no excuses for turning a blind eye to the problem of campus sexual assaults. SB 967 will create safer environments for students.”
SB 967 will require California colleges and universities to address campus sexual violence by requiring them to adopt consistent survivor-centered sexual assault response policies and protocols that follow best practices and professional standards for prevention, access to resources, and fair adjudication proceedings.
The measure strengthens preventative measures, including education about consent for students. To ensure a fairer campus adjudication process, the bill requires increased training for the faculty reviewing complaints, so that survivors of assault are not re-victimized by inappropriate questions when they seek justice.
The bill also requires access to resources like counseling and health services, which are absolutely critical for recovery.
California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White said, “The California State University will take the strongest possible measures to prevent any act of sexual assault or harassment within our campus communities. Senate Bill 967 is consistent with the long-standing priority of ensuring the safety and protection of the 450,000 students on our campuses and we appreciate the efforts of Senator de León to further ensure their safety.”
“The University of California has no tolerance for any form of sexual violence or harassment, and all 10 of our campus chancellors and I have taken a number of actions to ensure the safety of our students. As we continue to move ahead with our efforts, we welcome Senator De León’s legislation,” said University of California President Janet Napolitano.
“It is imperative that the entire higher education community embrace the policies and protocols outlined by SB 967,” said California Community College Chancellor Brice Harris. “Ensuring a safe and secure learning environment is an essential responsibility of our colleges and SB 967 will aid our system in meeting this commitment to our students, faculty and staff.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who represents parts of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, wrote a letter to Governor Brown two weeks ago.
“This legislation takes an important first step away from current practice addressing sexual assault cases by establishing a ‘yes means yes’ standard for colleges and universities to determine consent. California’s public universities have always led the country, and with Governor Brown’s signature they will lead in protecting students,” said Congresswoman Speier. “No student should have to fear sexual violence at their college or university. Universities have failed to protect students, and we need to change course before more students become survivors. Twenty percent of young women and six percent of young men will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault while attending college. When these survivors do come forward, they shouldn’t have to prove their assault wasn’t consensual.”
According to the Legislative Digest, the bill requires “the governing boards of each community college district, the Trustees of the California State University, the Regents of the University of California, and the governing boards of independent postsecondary institutions, in order to receive state funds for student financial assistance, to adopt policies concerning sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking that include certain elements, including an affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by a complainant.
“The bill would require these governing boards to adopt certain sexual assault policies and protocols, as specified, and would require the governing boards, to the extent feasible, to enter into memoranda of understanding or other agreements or collaborative partnerships with on-campus and community-based organizations to refer students for assistance or make services available to students.
“The bill would also require the governing boards to implement comprehensive prevention and outreach programs addressing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. By requiring community college districts to adopt or modify certain policies and protocols, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”
According to the bill, “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,” the law now states. “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.”
Senator De León stated, “Our daughters, sisters, nieces, and friends should not live in fear of becoming a victim of violent crime while pursuing their academic goals.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting