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“Yes means yes,” may soon become the precedent for sexual violence policies on college campuses around the country.

California’s state senate unanimously voted to enact an affirmative consent policy to replace the current status quo of “no means no.” The new policy is supposed to reaffirm the importance of consent and combat the current statistic of approximately one in four women are victims of sexual violence.

Penn’s policy, which predates California’s new law, defines sexual assault not only as those acts committed by force but also those cases in which the victim is unable to give consent. The inability to give consent could be due to inebriation, the influence of drugs or being a minor, but is not limited to these reasons.

The policy also goes on to say that consent must be affirmative and mutual. Consent is not all encompassing, so consent to one act does not mean someone has consented to all sexual acts. Furthermore , Penn’s policy explicitly states that there is no such thing as implied consent — meaning that someone’s actions never imply consent. Consent must be explicit.

“Personally, I think that the concept of ‘Yes Means Yes’ gets to the heart of consent. Consent is ongoing, enthusiastic and affirmative, and is not inclusive of silence or lack of resistance,” College senior Joanna Kamhi said in an email. Kamhi is the chair of Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention but clarified that she was not speaking on behalf of the organization.

“I think that the law questions outdated cultural notions that rape always involves an ultra-violent attack by a stranger on the street. Rape occurs in a variety of situations,” she said. “This law underlines the importance and necessity of communication and respect in any and all sexual interactions.”

“We can create an environment that’s healthy, that’s conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex,” said State Senator Kevin De Leon , a Democrat who represents Los Angeles and a major proponent of the bill, when he addressed the California state senate before its vote.

The new law will apply to any school receiving California state funding, but seems consistent with some existing school policies.

“UCLA is definitely bigger on sexual harassment than most state schools, I think,” said University of California, Los Angeles sophomore Yassaman Erfani .

“I know of a student who was cut from several different fraternities last year because his behavior pushed limits of girls, so people are very aware and conscious of how wrong sexual harassment is,” she added.

Other campuses face challenges that a stronger affirmative consent law could address. Columbia has recently come under fire for refusing to share statistics and data on sexual assault cases and punishments.

Groups such as No Red Tape Columbia have spoken out against the university’s secrecy and hope to increase dialogue about the need for firm consent policies and openness on punishments for sexual assaults.

Here at Penn, ASAP promotes a similar dialogue to increase awareness of the issue of sexual assault on campus.

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