Calif. Enacts 'Affirmative Consent' Standard for Campus Sexual Assault, Anti-Trafficking Bills

September 30, 2014 — California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Sunday signed a bill (SB 967) into law that will require colleges and universities that receive state funds to determine whether active consent occurred when investigating or adjudicating alleged sexual assaults, the New York Times reports.

In adopting the measure, California became the first state to have an affirmative consent standard, according to the Times (Lovett, New York Times, 9/28).

About 'Affirmative Consent'

Affirmative consent is defined as an "affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by sexual partners to consent to sexual activity. The consent must be "ongoing" and could be "revoked at any time."

The measure specifies that silence or the lack of physical resistance does not constitute consent, nor can consent be given in a situation in which a person is asleep, drugged, drunk or unconscious. However, the legislation does note that consent can be nonverbal.

The legislation also establishes policies aimed at improving protections and services for sexual assault survivors, as well as on-campus education and intervention efforts (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/12). For example, the law requires colleges and universities to offer on-campus survivors' advocates, prohibits survivors who report sexual assaults from being disciplined for underage drinking, and mandates that schools provide sexual assault and consent education during freshman orientation (New York Times, 9/28).

Gov. Brown Signs Human Trafficking Bills

In related news, Brown on Sunday also signed seven bills into law that aim to reduce human trafficking, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The new laws include measures that authorize courts to expunge individuals' prostitution convictions if they are found to have been victims of human trafficking, strengthen contractor hiring standards for some foreign-born workers and increase penalties for the solicitation of child prostitutes (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/28).