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'Yes Mean Yes' Is Now The Official Standard For Consent At California State Colleges

The 'yes means yes' bill has been signed into law (Photo by Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock)
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California is the first state to pass a law that changes the way consent is considered in allegations of sexual assault on college campuses. The "yes means yes" law was officially been signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown yesterday. "No means no" has always been the phrase used to dissuade sexual assault, but it hasn't always worked out so well. There are victims of sexual assault who are drunk, drugged or otherwise coerced and aren't able to say no. The new law says that for consent to be present, all involved parties must affirmatively and voluntarily agree, The Guardian reports. Silence or a lack of resistance will not count as consent. The new law will apply to all colleges that use state money to provide financial aid to students, either public or private.

Under the new law, faculty will be trained to properly handle student complaints. Schools must also provide access to mental and physical health care services and other important resources.

The law was authored by Senator Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from L.A., who said in a statement Sunday night, "The State of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug. We've shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice and healing."

There were some complaints about the bill, stating that it wasn't specific enough and that it would turn everyone into a rapist. But these hypothetical situations about a longterm partner who doesn't secure consent for every kiss on the cheek, or two students rounding the proverbial bases without drafting a contract first are not the targets of the bill. "Affirmative consent" can take many forms beyond just verbally saying yes. It could be a nod, or other appropriate nonverbal cues. The change in language turns consent into an active, voluntarily state in which all involved must consider their wants as well as the wants of their partners.

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California is the first state to mandate these consent regulations, but several colleges already have similar policies in place, Think Progress reports, and the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management has recommended this policy for several years.