Gov. Brown signs bill to prevent sexual assault, rape on college campuses

Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 967, nationally known as the Yes Means Yes bill, into action Sept. 28. The Yes Means Yes bill aims to provide support for victims of sexual abuse on college campuses by requiring institutions of higher education in California to define affirmative consent as a verbal “yes” rather than the absence of a verbal “no.” Additionally, the bill mandates that universities educate their student bodies on consent and sexual assault in order to prevent perpetrator ignorance.

“Our sisters, our daughters, our nieces — every woman deserves the right to pursue the dream of higher education without being threatened by the nightmare of violence and sexual abuse,” Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), author of SB 967, said in a press release.

Additionally, the bill provides multiple resources funded by the state which victims can utilize to aid in the legal processing of reporting, investigating and closing cases.

“It takes a lot of strength to report in the first place, and having to deal with an administrator that doesn’t understand the whole situation is very difficult. [SB 967] puts pressure on the universities to have administrators and programs available so that [victims] have other resources to go to if one isn’t giving them what they want,” said Sarah Yang, former president and co-founder of the Women’s Health Initiative at UC Davis.

This bill does not implement a transfer of power between the victim and the perpetrator according to Yang; it aims to give victims a fighting chance.

“It gives the universities more incentive and pressure to find more evidence where there is none,” Yang said.

Ivon Garcia, ASUCD Commission Chair for the Gender and Sexuality Commission, said that women who felt unsafe saying no are now given validation with this new definition.

“The bill goes forward from the notion that consent is based on the absence of a ‘no’; for this reason I think the bill encourages students to maintain communication with their sexual partner(s) throughout all stages of sexual activity,” Garcia said.

Additionally, Garcia said that this bill now erases miscommunication as an excuse for sexual assault and fosters an environment for victims that felt unsafe reporting their cases.

Harry Crouch, the president of the National Coalition for Men, feels that this bill will contribute to wrongful convictions of males due to false accusations and lead to trials based on “he said, she said” discourses.

He also believes that this law interferes with due process and that the legal process, before SB 967, already favored the victims.

Crouch feels that the previous definition of consent, as “no means no,” was sufficient and did not need to be changed.

Yang said that victims are often too afraid to verbally say no, and SB 967 protects those victims that fall into this category. The law’s new definition of consent also clarifies the obscurity created by drugs and alcohol.

As far as changes specific to the UC Davis, Yang hopes that the bill will encourage officers on campus to work more actively toward victim advocacy. She expressed her disappointment with the Title IX officer on campus for being unhelpful in this capacity and said that they are neither working nor taking recommendations from the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“The Title IX officer doesn’t really have their mind set on making changes or connecting with other networks,” Yang said.

The point of this bill, as Yang sees it, is to create resources and avenues for victims to pursue their cases.

Garcia said that they hope that this bill will increase discussion among the student body.

“There will be new ideas shared across campus about consent that may translate to a stronger community effort against sexual assault and rape,” Garcia said.