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Update 5:50 Sept. 29
Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB-967 on Sunday, according to the governor’s website.
The California State Legislature passed a bill defining consensual sex for college students, as well as guidelines colleges and universities must follow when conducting investigations into sexual assault complaints.
The bill would only be mandated in higher education institutions that receive state funding.
The bill, SB-967, defines consensual sex as needing “affirmative consent” and also outlines the inclusion of outreach and prevention programs on college campuses.
Affirmative consent is an “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” that must be ongoing throughout sexual activity and can be rescinded at any time, the bill reads. Silence or lack of resistance does not mean consent; nor does the existence of a dating relationship or past sexual relationship.
The bill also states that incapacitation of the victim due to the involvement of alcohol, drugs or medication during the sexual encounter nullifies any possibility of consent being given.
Though the bill is not explicitly clear on whether nonverbal communication, such as a head nod, counts as affirmative consent, English senior and Safer student assistant Bailey Hamblin believes the bill is a helpful starting point for students affected by sexual violence.
“Cal Poly already has really good resources for sexual assault and we have a pretty good sexual assault policy that addresses all the issues of consent,” Hamblin said. “But I think it just changes the way people think about their sexual relationships and what it means to get consent from another person.”
The rule of affirmative consent seeks to reduce sexual assault cases and to encourage victims to come forward. It provides a more streamlined approach to dealing with the many high-profile cases that have caught the attention of state and federal government officials.
Guidelines for investigating sexual assault complaints, at a minimum, must include seeking out and interviewing witnesses as well as contacting and interviewing the accused. University administration must also make services available to students that include counseling, victim advocacy and legal assistance.
Hamblin said the bill would relieve some of the burden from a sexual assault victim and create a discussion about the importance of communicating with your sexual partner.
“It requires both parties to be on the same page,” she said. “When people communicate, there’s less of a chance that something bad is going to happen.”
Both the California State University and University of California systems have endorsed the bill.
The CSU system has already taken steps to institute some of the bill’s mandated changes. In June 2014, the Office of the Chancellor instituted Executive Order 1097, establishing an affirmative consent standard as CSU policy. The UC system has also added the affirmative consent standard to its policies.
Currently, the Department of Education is investigating more than 55 colleges and universities for their handling of sexual assault cases and infringement on student rights outlined in Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972. Universities under investigation include Arizona State University, Harvard College and Boston University.
Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign the bill and is expected to make his decision by the end of September.