Sunday night, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 967, which is also known as the “Yes Means Yes” law. This piece of legislation, pertaining to California’s institutions of higher education, puts the responsibility on someone engaging in sexual activity to obtain affirmative consent.
Affirmative consent means, “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary.” The law goes into further detail explaining:
- Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent;
- Silence does not mean consent;
- Consent must be ongoing and can be revoked at any time; and
- 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 new law also clearly states instances in which someone can not give affirmative consent. These instances include:
- Being asleep or unconscious;
- Being incapacitated due to the influence of drugs, alcohol, or medication; and/or
- Being unable to communicate due to a mental or physical condition.
This is an extraordinary step for the state of California!
At Only With Consent, we believe that SB-967 could change the narrative around sexual assault. We understand that the vast majority of rapists are serial rapists who don’t care if they received the consent of the other person. However, with a law like this, there is a lot less room for the rapist to make ridiculous excuses and get away with what they did.
If more people understand what defines consent, then perhaps they would stop blaming the victim and instead blame the rapist. Novel idea, isn't it?
When I was raped in college, I was asleep. I had no idea being asleep while someone was forcing himself onto me counted as being raped. I had such a narrow definition of rape in my head that I blamed myself for what happened before I ever thought of blaming the person who raped me. Beyond having a narrow definition of rape, I didn’t know what consent was, and I surely could not define it. This bill would have helped at least define what happened to me.
Affirmative consent alone will not stop sexual assault. We need to address the issue of sexual assault with a multi-pronged approach because it is deeply engrained in the world we live in. Although we wish there was a simple fix, there will never be a single approach that rids the world of sexual assault.
Only With Consent is here to teach people what defines consent. We are also here to teach people what is not consent. We want the rapists to be confronted by administrators, jury members, and community members who know what consent is. We want everyone to understand that if the person did not receive an affirmative consent, then they committed sexual assault. This change in culture will not happen over night. It will take people from all walks of life to take a stand.
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