The California legislature on Thursday passed a first-of-its-kind bill that would change the standards of sexual consent on college campus from “no means no” to the affirmative “yes means yes.”
The legislation was passed unanimously by the state senate and is headed to the governor’s desk.
SB 967, introduced early this year by state Sen. Kevin de León, requires that for public schools in California to receive state funding, they must adopt an “affirmative consent standard” when reviewing cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.
“Affirmative consent” is defined as:
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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. 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.
The bill also requires that schools adopt “comprehensive” outreach and education on sexual assault.
State Sen. de León told the San Jose Mercury News that the bill would be a “paradigm shift.” “If the governor signs it, this will lead the entire country, the nation,” he said.
The California legislation, which would be the first in the nation to set a standard affirmative consent, comes amid heightened awareness of both the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses and the inadequacy of college protocols for responding to complaints and aiding survivors.
In May, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges and universities that are currently under investigations for Title IX violations related to sexual assault.
The list included several schools in California, such as Occidental, the University of Southern California, and the University of California-Berkeley. More schools have come under investigation since May. About one in five undergraduate women are the victims of sexual assault, according to the Centers for Disease Control.