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California passes ‘yes means yes’ law

In October 2013, The University of Southern Mississippi Police Department investigated an alleged sexual assault at the Kappa Sigma Fraternity house on campus.

The victim, a then 18-year-old freshman, said she could identify the man because she knew him personally.

Rape is the most common violent crime on college campuses, according to Cleveland Rape Crisis.

In fact, sexual assault is so prevalent on college campuses, it is reported that an event occurs once every 21 hours across the U.S.

About 1 in 4 college women will experience sexual assault during her academic career and 3 percent of college men, with an estimated 55 to 75 percent of victims being under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the event.

Tristan Hayes, 23, who has worked at various liquor stores in Hattiesburg, can remember numerous occasions when college-aged men would often frequent while planning for parties.

“Everclear, Arisocrat, Taaka…high-proof stuff for mixing with juices, almost always clear spirits,” Hayes said.

“They would sometimes mention things like ‘yeah, we got (women) coming over; we have to get them (wasted).”color infographic

Many say their perpetrators argue that the victims were willing or compliant during the event, despite the victim may not having any recollection.

California recognized this danger and became a forerunner in fighting against it.

Earlier last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that made California the first state to define sexual consent.

Lawmakers recognized the statement “no means no” has brought ambiguity in investigating sexual assault cases, so instead they structured a bill that would assert affirmative consent instead.

“Yes means yes” will clarify the standards and help universities and college campuses handle rape and sexual assault accusations.

The law requires “an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon” sexual activity for over 2.3 million college students.

The law states specifically that if the person is asleep or under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, that person is unable to issue consent to sexual activity.

“Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” the law states, “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”

The California State University System updated its policies last week to include language that mirrors the language of the bill, which a spokesman said the system supports.

Victims’ rights advocates applaud these measures, saying college students who make accusations are often met with college officials holding them responsible for the assault, whether it be for their state of consciousness or what they were wearing.

Denice Labertew, the director of advocacy services at the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the enactment takes away the issue of “victim blaming,” and instead makes the accused prove that he had the alleged victim’s consent.

Critics said this is a form of government overreach.

How does a person prove they received consent “shy of having it videotaped,” said Joe Cohn, the legislative policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, who said he wants every student to feel safe in their learning environment.

“The State of California will not allow schools to sweep rape cases under the rug,” he said, according to Associated Press.

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California passes ‘yes means yes’ law