Redefining consent will lead to changes in sexual assault charges

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The “Yes Means Yes” bill has passed, redefining when sexual consent was given from an “affirmative consent” standpoint, which breaks down how to more clearly articulate sexual assault.

The bill, created by Senator Kevin de Leon, is geared toward reducing sexual assault allegations on college campuses that accept state financial aid. The bill currently awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature by the end of September.

A very important aspect of the bill is the definition of what giving affirmative consent means. The bill describes affirmative consent as an ongoing clarification of consent from those involved.

A lack of consent or silence cannot be taken as consent and the consent can be revoked at any time. The bill already makes more clarifications than the simplistic “no means no” approach.

Another crucial and interesting aspect of the bill is the clarification of what circumstances make it unacceptable for affirmative consent to be given.

This includes: moments of sleep or unconsciousness, being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, the complainant cannot understand the meaning of sexual consent and activity or the complainant cannot communicate due to a physical or mental condition.

There is a very intriguing article written by Zaron Burnett III discussing and defining rape culture. In his article he explains that men participate in rape culture just by being a man.

He talks about not having to feel vulnerable when walking alone down a street, but how women do not have that option.

The definition of rape culture provided in his article according to Marshall University Women’s Center: “is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.”

He goes on to describe how such an environment “is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

Burnett’s perspective looks at how rape is thought of and continually carried out.

The new definition of sexual consent will help clear sexual allegations up a lot, but it would also be very helpful to educate people on what rape culture is and change the way women are projected in society.

When speaking to Burnett through email he explained how he has an optimistic view on how this bill will be interpreted in our culture.

“We’ve defined no as the refusal of someone’s advances, primarily,” Burnett said. “Traveling to the other end of the spectrum we find the definition of “yes”: a person provides consent, is conscious and understands the implications of their consent.”

He explained that from his perspective as a man, he always makes his implications clear and never invades a woman’s personal space.

“As a guy, we often wish there were clear indicators of a woman’s intent,” Burnett said. “By requiring that we ask for them, either verbally or with body language, I think that helps make clear the difference between yes and no.”

The new bill will help make sexual consent allegations more clear and more easily understood for all.

Kimberly Nava, spokesperson for Sac State stated  that it is too early for Sacramento State to comment on what they will specifically do as Gov. Brown has not yet signed the bill.

However, Nava did state that sexual violence has is a topic receiving a lot of attention and that awareness is important at this time.

“We want to make sure the campus community knows where to report incidents of sexual and domestic violence, and where to get help,” Nava said. “We will be conducting an awareness campaign beginning this semester.”

If you need violence and sexual assault services you may contact the Sacramento State Victim Advocate (916) 278-3799 or the University Police (916)  278-6851. For more information on violence and sexual assault visit https://shcssacstate.org/wellness-promotion/violence-sexual-assault-support-services.

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