‘Yes Means Yes’ Law

Gov. Jerry Brown of California added fuel to a nationwide effort to curb campus sexual assault after he signed a law Sunday requiring all state colleges and universities to adopt a standard of unambiguous consent for students who choose to have sex.

California’s “yes means yes” legislation defines consent as “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity”—as opposed to the commonly used refrain, “no means no.” In other words, the parties involved must give “affirmative consent” before sex. Silence, a lack of resistance and consent while intoxicated are not considered an adequate mutual agreement under the new law.

The bill also addresses training protocol for faculty who review sexual assault complaints and requires that victims have access to counseling, health services and other resources.

After disturbing reports of higher learning institutions mishandling rape allegations surfaced this year at a swath of California schools, Harvard University, Columbia University, Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Florida State University, pressure has mounted on universities and colleges to reexamine their sexual assault policy.

Seattle University has followed suit and recently assembled an advisory board to help guide the university toward more effective treatment and prevention of sexual assault. Education materials, including an online training program called “Think About It,” have also been disseminated to help combat rape culture and to promote a healthy and safe campus.

The “yes means yes” law is the nation’s first of its kind.