The state of California has flipped the conversation when it comes to defining consent in its state, changing it from “No means no” to “Yes means yes.”
The new law is looking to improve the way universities deal with sexual assault, requiring “affirmative consent”. Affirmative consent goes further than “Just say no” and requires that the person consenting be awake and alert. This means that a person cannot give consent while asleep, or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol.
“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,” states part of the law.
California is the first state to take such a step, requiring colleges to follow certain guidelines when it comes to investigating sexual assault.
Advocates for the new law praise it, saying that it will bring consistency to the way sexual assaults are handled across college campuses in the state.
Connecticut has had its share of issues with sexual assaults on its college campuses, such as the recent lawsuit by former and current UConn students that accused the university of sweeping rape accusations under the rug. Then there are the fraternities at Wesleyan, recently ordered to become co-ed, which were known as “rape factories.”
If any state needs to adopt a set of laws like “Yes means yes,” it is Connecticut. While Central Connecticut State University has reported no sexual assaults since 2011, according to its Clery Report, it is likely that these guidelines would aid the university in investigating claims.
The bill also contains language that would require training for faculty who deal with sexual assault complaints. This would prevent inappropriate questions from being asked of the victims during such a difficult time. Additionally, the bill requires that universities offer the victims counseling and healthcare services.
This new standard for consent is being criticized by some for being overbearing. They believe that it is not the state’s job to define consent. But if that is the case, who’s job is it?
The university system has proved itself to be incapable of effectively dealing with sexual assaults on its campuses and even less capable of reporting them properly. If not the states, then perhaps the national government should pass legislation defining consent and holding universities more accountable.
California has set a high bar for the way states handle sexual assault in the future. It would be in the best interest of CCSU and Connecticut universities if the same were to happen here.