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California Initiative Takes Steps To Stop Campus Sexual Assault

New students at San Diego State University watch a video on sexual consent during an orientation meeting Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in San Diego. Defining consensual sex is a growing trend by universities under pressure to do more to protect victims. Throughout the country, schools have been adopting policies on their own that set the parameters for distinguishing when consent was given for a sexual activity and when it was not.

CREDIT: AP/Gregory Bull.

Campus sexual assault cases are constantly muddled by substance abuse and differing views on what equals consent.

The California state legislature is looking to remove the ambivalence of what determines consent by instating a “yes means yes” sexual assault law.

“The reality is, when you’re inebriated, when a drug has been slipped into your drink, you can’t say no, you can’t fend off an attacker,” California State Senator Kevin De León told MSNBC.

Nonetheless, the inability to say no does not imply that a person has said yes.

De Leon continued by saying, “[victims] have to prove to themselves, to a prosecutor, to a district attorney to a panel on a college campus, that they affirmatively said no.” Which given the circumstances can sometimes be impossible.

If passed, the California law would be the first of its kind nationwide. It would require all colleges and universities receiving public funding to abide by the rule.

The legislation also makes clear that, “the existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.”

California’s initiative to tackle the growing issue of campus sexual assault comes at a time when the issue is garnering continuous national media attention.

Currently, 71 colleges are being investigated by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights for possible Title IX violations. Bipartisan legislation has also been brought forth in an effort to create additional transparency in campus sexual assault cases by increasing fines and removing athletic departments’ oversight, among other details.

“I think it has been really effective in generating a dialogue in the mainstream and amongst students about what is consent and shifting the dialogue from ‘no means no’ to ‘yes means yes,'” Sofie Karasek, End Rape on Campus Co-Founder, told MSNBC. “That’s a really important aspect of the ultimate culture change that we’re trying to create.”

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