With One Phrase, California Just Took a Big Step in the Fight Against Sexual Assault

With One Phrase, California Just Took a Big Step in the Fight Against Sexual Assault
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The news: One down, 49 to go. California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed off on the highly anticipated "yes means yes" law that defines sexual consent has a firm "yes" rather than the refrain "no means no." 

The bill, which was approved last month by state lawmakers, gives the definition of consent as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." In other words, yes means yes. 

California Gov. Jerry Brown
Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

How it works: Legislation specifies that lacking resistance or silence doesn't equal consent, and someone who is drugged, drunk and/or unconscious can't grant consent. State-funded schools and universities must adhere to the law if they want to continue to receive funding.

The bill also requires victims to have access to counseling, health care services and lends training to school faculty so they don't ask "inappropriate questions" when surveying the situation. 

"Lawmakers say consent can be nonverbal, and universities with similar policies have outlined examples as a nod of the head or moving in closer to the person." the Associated Press reports. The full law is available to read here.

Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Calif.) pushed for the law to be approved as states and universities are facing immense pressure to do a better job in handling rape and sexual assault cases on campus. 

"Every student deserves a learning environment that is safe and healthy," de Leon said in a statement. "The State of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug. We've shifted the conversation regarding sexual assault to one of prevention, justice and healing."

Why it matters: The law finally provides consistency across the state in terms of how sexual assault victims are treated and torches the idea that victims must have actively resisted the assault in order to have a "valid" complaint. 

Advocates, like UCLA student Savannah Badalich called the move "amazing." She added: "It's going to educate an entire new generation of students on what consent is and what consent is not ... that the absence of a no is not a yes."

Your move, everyone else.