Earlier this month, a rape reportedly took place in the residence halls at SF State. Little was said or done after the fact, which called into question how college campuses handle sexual assaults. What if we could change the way we view rape culture across California universities?
At the end of September, California might become the first state to do just that. Senate Bill 967, dubbed the “yes means yes” bill, aims to redefine sexual assault from a lack of consent to a clearly communicated affirmation. It will also require sexual assault and consent education to be a mandatory part of freshmen orientation on college campuses statewide. Approved by the senate in the beginning of September, the bill simply requires Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature to become a law.
As college students, we cannot sit on the sidelines and blame the blurred lines of party drugs and binge drinking for our passivity. What it takes to end sexual assault on college campuses is to construct a bold and comprehensive definition of consent that will educate students and hold the assailants—the real people at fault—accountable. The passing of the bill will produce more safe and educated college campuses, provide a more comfortable space for victims to come forward and make it easier to prosecute perpetrators.
According to One in Four, a national organization that aims to inform the public about rape culture in the United States, one in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. SB 967 aims to diminish these numbers, while simultaneously spreading awareness that will have a profound effect on the way we think and act when it comes to sexual activity in college.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that only 5 percent of rapes were reported to law enforcement. However, two-thirds of these victims confided in another person who they felt comfortable with. These statistics show that many young women at universities do not have enough confidence in school or legal authorities to come forward with their cases.
This groundbreaking law will give rape victims a voice that was previously silenced.
It wasn’t until this year that such cases fell under the spotlight when a young woman from Columbia University visually displayed the burden of her own rape by carrying around the 50 lb. mattress on which she claims she was assaulted. Emma Sulkowicz’s case has brought even more attention to the issue of college campus rapes that are left uninvestigated.
Despite this case receiving national publicity, there are still discrepancies in what constitutes consensual sex. For example, too many people believe sex is consensual when someone drunkenly decides to engage in sexual activity, even if they would have decided otherwise when sober.
The true meaning of consent has been stifled. Defining it as a clearly communicated verbal or nonverbal “yes” will enable a huge shift in what consensual sex really means in our society.
Although SB 967 won’t eradicate sexual assault in its entirety, it will alter the way we view rape on college campuses in a revolutionary way. It’s about time we break the pattern of indifference and ignorance surrounding an issue that has plagued college campuses for far too long. Passing this legislation will no longer allow us to turn a blind eye to sexual assault and the conditions in which it takes place.