Gov. Brown signs bill to help prevent sexual assaults on campuses

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill over the weekend which, for the first time, defines consensual sex on campus. It gets rid of the "no means no" motto in favor of a new paradigm "yes means yes." Activists say this is going to educate a new generation of students on what consent really means.

"I'm really proud for what we've all worked for and what the senator pushed for is finally a law," said Meghan Warner. She has come a long way from the freshman who didn't report being sexually assaulted by two men, to the strong activist that helped push for Senate Bill 967.

California's so-called "yes means yes" law, SB 967, is the first in the nation to make affirmative consent language a central tenant of school sexual assault policies by defining when and how consent can be given.

The Senate unanimously passed the law which states that a woman who is drunk or asleep and says nothing, has not giving consent. The bill defines consent as an "affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." And that not saying no, isn't a go.

Furthermore, the bill states that if the person has drugs or alcohol in their system, or is asleep, they cannot give consent. This will change how campus officials investigate sexual assault allegations.

Moreover, the bill requires training for faculty so victims are not asked inappropriate questions when filing complaints. In addition, SB 967 includes counseling and health care services for victims. For example, each campus will now have a confidential advising office for survivors.

Advocates for victims of sexual assault supported the changes. They believe it will provide consistency across campuses and challenge the notion that victims must have "resisted assault" in order to have valid complaints.

Warner says she was excited when she heard the governor signed it into law on Sunday. She does think it will make a difference on college campuses.

"Some perpetrators will remain perpetrators, but in a lot of cases, people will start to rethink their behavior and some studies show what perpetrators know what they are doing is wrong, but don't know that it's rape. They just think everyone just does that. This will help get rid of that mentality for perpetrators," said Warner.

But Warner is also happy about the bill's focus on victims and that it creates a clear path for them when it comes to reporting the crime and getting help.

"If someone comes forward as a survivor instead of being doubted and belittled, that they're supported, I think this will be a really important step forward," she said. "Not just because of the affirmative consent standard, but also the educational and outreach measures the bill has so the student body can know their rights."

The law applies to all California colleges receiving state financial aid. While it may take some time, most agree it will be a matter of changing the culture on campuses throughout California.
Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.