There is a sexual assault crisis happening on college campuses across the country. Most current policies have done little to stop the rampant abuse that seems endemic to university systems, and have enforced a twisted standard of what constitutes rape or other forms of sexual violence. The California Legislature recently passed a law that would change those standards for the state's colleges and universities, requiring institutions receiving state-funded student aid to adopt affirmative consent policies.
On Tuesday, the New York Times applauded California's move, but also went on to endorse enacting affirmative consent laws across the country. These "yes means yes" requirements turn the conversation about sexual assault around, the Times noted, requiring participants in any sexual act to be sure all parties are engaging consensually:
In its current form, SB-967 is not radical. Its underlying message is that silence does not necessarily equal consent, and that it’s better to be certain that sex is desired than to commit assault.
The new standard won’t convince young men intent on getting their way -- a vast majority of assailants are men -- to back down, especially if alcohol is in the picture, as it often is. It could, however, improve how colleges handle accusations. In addition to setting an “affirmative consent” standard, the bill requires California colleges to adopt transparent sexual assault policies, protect confidentiality and establish training programs for officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault.
While it is true that laws like California's will not eliminate the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, they do have the potential to eliminate the likelihood that school officials will fail to handle allegations adequately. That's better than nothing. "'Yes means yes' won’t make these problems disappear," the editors conclude. "But the new standard is worth trying."