‘Yes Means Yes’ bill defines consent

Governor Jerry Brown signed the ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill into law on Sept. 28, requiring affirmative consent before engaging in sexual activity by any given party in California.  

“The ‘Yes Means Yes’ law really gives the power back to women and victims of sexual assault,” said Amanda Cowman, student and director for the 2014-15 Vagina Monologues. “I hope it will make a noticeable difference in how incidents of sexual assault are reported and handled on our campus.”

The SB-967, the ‘Yes Means Yes’ bill is intended to improve how college campuses handle incidents of rape and assault and also to clarify the meaning of affirmative consent. 

“Having sex with someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and unable to consciously give such consent has always been and will continue to be illegal,” said Nathan Johnson, chief of police and executive director for risk management. “This law at the very least causes one to pause and question, evaluate whether both parties are consciously aware that such sexual activity is consensual by those involved.”

California Senator Kevin de Leon sponsored and introduced the bill in February, before being signed by Brown last month.  

Within the bill, it states the following:  Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. 

The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

“My thoughts on this bill are mixed. I believe it is a good re-introduction to bringing awareness about rape and sexual assault on college campuses,” said Samantha Houck, a community service advisor in Tuscany. “A person could still be peer pressured in to saying yes, and ‘no’ can clearly mean ‘no’ when actually stated, however yes can be more iffy.”

Public schools like Sonoma State University, that receive state funding are required to comply with the bill to continue to receive funding. 

The bill compromises not only affirmative consent, but also requires institutions to adopt certain sexual assault policies and protocols. It would require the governing boards to enter into a message of understanding, or other agreements or collaborative partnerships with on campus and community-based organizations to refer students for assistance or make services available to students.

The bill would also require the institutions to implement comprehensive prevention and outreach programs addressing sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

“At The HUB, we are starting a men and masculinity program that will start this week,” said Mark Fabionar, director of The HUB, integral center for diversity, vitality and creativity student affairs. “This will give a space for people to identify as men to express the gift and challenges of masculinity and also what it means to be a man.” 

The Men and Masculinity Program on campus is neither a response to recent incidents nor the recent bill that passed. 

“This is something we decided to do this summer,” said Fabionar.

There are several resources for students on campus of sexual assault including: Deputy Chief Sally Miller who is considered a national expert in laws related to the Jeanne Clery Act and related reporting requirements, Sergeant Judy Mefferd, who specialized in advanced sexual assault investigations and Joyce Suzuki who is the managing director for employee relations and Title IX coordinator for sexual assault complaints and discrimination. 

Students can also visit Counseling and Psychological Services, The Hub, a resource which provides a platform for transformative and embodied learning.

“Hopefully, those who are victims will come forward and report these crimes.  Police Services, in conjunction with our Title IX coordinator, will provide services that increase our chances for a positive prosecution and/or administrative action,” said Johnson.  “To this end, community members are encouraged and can report crimes to Police Services at 707-664-4444 or through variety of ways.”

Those seeking further information are encouraged to contact the Sonoma State University Police Services, the HUB or Counseling and Psychological Services. Students can also visit  the Sonoma State NewsCenter online at sonoma.edu.