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California adopts ‘yes means yes’ sex-assault rule

September 29, 2014

SACRAMENTO, California (AP) — California Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he has signed a bill that makes California the first in the U.S. to define when “yes means yes” and adopt requirements for colleges to follow when investigating sexual assault reports.

State lawmakers last month approved the measure, as states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. Campus sexual assault victims and women’s advocacy groups delivered petitions to Brown’s office on Sept. 16 urging him to sign the bill.

De Leon has said the legislation will begin a paradigm shift in how college campuses in California prevent and investigate sexual assaults. Rather than using the refrain “no means no,” the definition of consent under the bill requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”

“With one in five 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,” de Leon said in lobbying Brown for his signature.

The legislation says silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. Under the bill, someone who is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep cannot grant consent.

Lawmakers say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person.

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

The bill requires training for faculty reviewing complaints so that victims are not asked inappropriate questions when filing complaints. The bill also requires access to counseling, health care services and other resources.

When lawmakers were considering the bill, critics said it was overreaching and sends universities into murky legal waters. Some Republicans in the Assembly questioned whether statewide legislation is an appropriate venue to define sexual consent between two people.

There was no opposition from Republicans in the state Senate.

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