California targets college sex crimes with new law
CALIFORNIA has become the first American state to require students on college campuses to receive active consent before all sexual activity.
On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a Bill that will impose this new standard for consent at all colleges that receive state funding, including all public universities and many private institutions where students receive state grants.
The legislation, passed by the California State Senate last month, defines consent as "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity".
It also states that silence and a lack of resistance do not signify consent, and that drugs or alcohol do not excuse unwanted sexual activity.
Colleges across the United States are examining their policies and procedures for preventing, investigating and reporting sexual assaults as students file complaints over "improper" responses from the schools.
Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth are among dozens of schools being probed by the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights for alleged violations of Title IX, which bars gender discrimination in education.
The White House has declared sex crimes to be "epidemic" on US college campuses, with one in five students falling victim to a sexual assault during their college years.
Some colleges have imposed rules for affirmative consent, but California is the first state to require it by law.
Advocates for victims of sexual assault have said the new rules will remove the onus from victims to prove they said "no". Critics have said the law unfairly shifts the burden of proof to the accused.
The new law will also offer other protection: Universities will be required to offer on-campus victims' advocates; victims who come forward to report a sexual assault may not be punished for underage drinking; and all institutions will be required to teach incoming freshmen about sexual assault and consent during orientation.
NYT, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG