Governor Jerry Brown’s signing of SB 967, more commonly known as the “Yes means Yes” law, on September 28 marks the first affirmative consent law passed by a state in the U.S.
For PLNU, and colleges across California, it will help to define what is considered consensual sex and what crosses the line into sexual assault. PLNU will also be required to implement other measures like giving sexual assault and consent information at freshman orientation.
The law defines consensual sex as both partners giving affirmative consent, whether verbal or nonverbal, when neither party is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep. Not speaking is not considered consent.
PLNU President Bob Brower sat in with Point T.V. on Thursday night to give his response on how the law will affect PLNU.
“We will have informational policies and procedures to apply on campus,” said Brower. “And those guidelines will be coming out soon.”
Brower said PLNU is prepared for the law to go into effect should an incident occur on campus.
“Well the first response is to get individuals to the resource people who are trained and prepared for these situations,” said Brower. “There’s really good support that’s provided by the Wellness Center and we also have ongoing support within our campus residential life staff.”
Though resources are available on campus for students and victims of sexual assault, Brower is confident the campus environment helps to reduce the number of these kinds of issues.
The Clery Act requires that Public Safety release an annual security report for on-campus crime. On Sept. 25, they published this year’s security report. In 2011 and 2013, there were no forcible sex offenses or non-forcible sex offenses. In 2012, one forcible sex offense was disclosed, but no PLNU student, staff or faculty was involved.
“The sex offense reported in 2012 involved two non-student minors who were attending a hosted event on campus,” the report stated. “Information on the allegation was provided by SDPD during their initial investigation. No university student or employee was involved as an alleged victim, perpetrator or witness.”
Brower said part of the reason campus has had so few incidents is because of the student living agreement.
“The no alcohol policy that we have is really an attribute that affects the relationships on campus,” said Brower. “Public campuses [realize the benefit] of establishing dry campus policies because alcohol is so often involved in these cases of sexual violence.”
As PLNU moves to implement the “Yes means Yes” law, Brower hopes that this university will serve as an example to other universities with its policies.
“We will move to be fully compliant,” said Brower. “And hopefully model the process as well.”
Junior Anna Mazzariello said the law is a good way to keep students accountable.
“I think it is good that people are bringing attention to it,” said Mazzariello. “Now it won’t be so ambiguous if someone ever finds themselves in this situation.”
She is uncertain, though, that it will affect the number of incidents at PLNU.
“Overall, I’m not sure [if it is effective] because it is not like [sexual assault] is going to stop happening,” said Mazzariello.
Defense Attorney and LJML Professor Michael McKinney said this law has potential but there are underlying issues.
“I’m not sure how it will be implemented successfully on this campus,” said McKinney. “Merely because the culture here might not necessarily be supportive of victims of this kind of thing.”
However, he said it’s a step in the right direction.
“I’m supportive of the measure,” said McKinney. “It’s just complicated.”
According to the main authors of the bill, colleges across the country need to adopt more comprehensive prevention programs and victim-centered sexual assault policies.
“Recent reports have made clear that many colleges throughout the country fail to adequately address victims’ needs,” the bill stated. “In several instances, colleges have mishandled alleged sexual assaults – repeatedly failing to take appropriate disciplinary action against perpetrators.”
Sen. Kevin deLeon of Los Angeles, the main author of the bill with Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara and a portion of Ventura county, noted the current investigations of Occidental College, currently under investigation by the Department of Education for 37 complaints in regards to improperly reported sexual assaults.
The Obama administration is currently investigating 55 schools nationwide. The Campus SaVE Act from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice provide guidelines for handling these cases. In January, Obama released a memorandum to establish a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
Though many states have informal policies and procedures regarding sexual assault on school campuses, California is the first state to formalize the policy into a law. As a result, campuses all across the state are working to implement the correct programs on their campuses, including PLNU.
Read the bill in full here.