California just passed the sexual assault affirmative consent legislation. This means that an actual verbal consent or agreement is required for sexual behavior. Given that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their four years in college, we need a much stronger response. There have to be clear guidelines for colleges to deal with sexual assault on campus. College should not be the most unsafe place for our daughters.
I have frequently been called to provide expert testimony in rape cases where the jury determined that she did not say no, fight back, or seek help so….they acquitted the man who had sex with her. We know there are many reasons why women do not scream, fight back, or try to get away. Sometimes, she is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol (often being slipped drugs without her knowledge). Other times, she is confused or overcome. Over half of the time, she experiences “tonic immobility,” which is a neurological response in the brain to trauma. The woman “freezes” as her brain floods her with stress hormones. She is unable to respond.
Is this a “perfect” solution to the problem of sexual assault on campus (or anywhere else, for that matter)? No. But it’s a damned good starting in holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. Colleges and universities in California will be expected to hold these perpetrators accountable and actually disciple them. They have guidelines to support the victim/survivor. The men who have received little or no punishment for committing sexual assault, will now be dealt with appropriately. It will not be perfect but we are gradually changing the rape culture environment on campuses.
Wendy Murphy, law professor and sexual assault advocate, does not like the California law. She is a proponent of using Title IX standards which protect civil rights and have a lower threshold of accountability. While I can agree with what Wendy is saying, I also think this is a good start and can shift the legal process for charging and convicting sexual predators. I think we can successfully address this epidemic from both angles: Title IX and state laws that are clear and that will instruct jurors in more appropriate ways to evaluate sexual assault cases.
A young woman should not be at greater risk of sexual assault on campus than she would be anywhere else in her life.
Yes means yes. Anything less than consent is sexual assault.