Rape Law in California Affects Colleges


Maddie Alvarado and Charlotte Houston

In a nation where one out of six women is the victim of sexual misconduct in her lifetime, and 97 percent of rapists never spend a day in jail, California Governor Jerry Brown is attempting to take a stand against the number of rapes occurring on college campuses. Brown passed Bill 967 on Sept. 28, stating that California colleges will not receive state funding unless they adopt this new law and abide by its policies.

The biggest change that will be implemented by Bill 967 is that “lack of protest or resistance [during sexual activities] does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” The bill also requires that colleges create and enforce detailed victim-centered policies and protocols, along with prevention and outreach programs regarding sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

What this means for California college students is that in order for sexual encounters to be considered consensual, there must be a “yes” from both parties. A lack of protest or consent still qualifies as rape. So even if a victim never blatantly denies consent, the assailant can still be prosecuted for rape. Sexual assault organizations have now adopted the new tagline “the absence of yes means no” and “yes means yes” instead of the outdated “no means no.”

This amendment makes it clear that rape is never the victim’s fault. Things like what the victim was wearing, whether they were intoxicated, or what the setting is do not factor into whether sexual acts are consensual or not. The law also states that being asleep or being in a relationship prior to or during the act of sex does not imply consent. A person can say no and stop at anytime.

Opponents of the law argue that it is not clear what qualifies as consent. Originally, the law required verbal permission during sexual acts, but it has been amended to include “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.” What falls under these categories? Some fear that these new laws will result in the prosecution of innocent people who honestly thought that the sexual act was consensual. However, not everyone is in agreement with this.

“I feel like consent is a lot of times made out to be a lot more extravagant than it really is. There is no questioning to it. You should be able to know,” sophomore Skylar Sjoberg said. If there’s something you want to do with a person, you should have a good understanding of what consent is. You will know when you have been given it and if you question it then the answer is a complete no.”

Outcry from the general public involving a rape case at Stanford originally brought the severity of the issue to the California state government. However, public discussion has increased following the rape accusations against several celebrities including singer Cee Lo Green, YouTuber Sam Pepper, Kesha’s producer Dr. Luke, and Viner Curtis Lepore.

The amendments to the Education Code are being implemented at colleges because according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, “girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.”

“I think that this law is almost kind of in place [already]. Here most people understand to continue any sexual activity you need consent. You will always need more rules, for every college campus you’re going to needs more institutions in place for people to feel comfortable coming out and talking about it,” Miramonte graduate and UC Berkeley student Kate Wolffe said. “The more institutions put in place and the more discussed it is then more people will not commit sexual assault and more people will be comfortable talking about sexual assault.”

But what is being done to protect high school students? Because sex between minors is technically illegal, it would seem silly to pass a law attempting to further the protection of teenagers still in high school. However, just because sex is illegal for minors doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Many Miramonte students feel it is important to put standards in place for the safety of minors as well as college-age students.

“There should be laws to protect those who might be raped or places for them to go if that happens to them and we should prosecute the people who do it. I wish we didn’t have make a law against it because rape is going against basic human rights. It shouldn’t happen,”  Sjoberg said.