In 2003, Illinois was the first state to pass the “No Means No” law. This law stated that an individual had to say “No,” if they did not want to be involved sexually with another person. Eventually other states adapted the “No means No” law, but it continued to be controversial. More often than not, legal systems did not find offenders at fault when victims claimed they had been sexually assaulted unless physical force was involved and present on the victims.
Many people have been outraged with the ambiguity of the “No” law, which allows many cases to get ignored. In situations when a victim was unable to say “No.” (Drunk, passed out, or threatened etc…) The “No” law allowed offenders to take advantage of them and legally be excused by the law. The accused were let go.
On Sept. 29, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the new “Yes Means Yes” law. The law is a modified and improved version of the “No Means No” law.
The bill applies to all California schools who receive state money for student financial aid (post-secondary schools, public and private.) The bill also requires colleges and universities to adopt programs that prevent assault “victim-centered” sexual-assault response policies. This bill also states, “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.”
By giving consent a clear definition, many are hoping it will help reduce sexual assault or increase the chances of suspects being brought to justice.
An example of cases going ignored, two local universities were under investigation by the Educational Departments office for Civil Rights for violations against gender equity law for failing to give victims adequate protection against sexual predators.
In recent years, USC and Occidental College minimized sexual violence cases by failing to report them. USC failed to report 13 incidents, and Occidental failed to report 19. The Occidental spokesman Jim Tranquada told The Huffington Post, “Bottom line: We made some mistakes.” Mistakes seem an understatement in this case. In a case at USC, student Tucker Reed reported her assaulter to the university in August 2011 and then again in November 2012, only to later find out they had closed the case without even talking to her.
While some do not like this law because they feel it may not be adequate, the “Yes” law is a step in the right direction, where the side of the victim is taken and the guilty are not being protected. Many agree that it should apply to every gender of every age in California regardless if they are students or not. Those who support this cause are hoping that other states adapt this law and provide improved protection for victims.