“Yes Means Yes”, also formally known as S5965, is leading the way with new and improved sexual assault policy and campus climate surveys. It won a unanimously popular vote in New York; which is one of the most densely populated and diverse states in the nation. The bill was signed into law July 7, 2015 and it requires both parties to obtain consent for each step and action related to sex. The law applies only on college campuses. At its heart is a simple concept: instead of "No Means No," it's "Yes Means Yes."
It switches the dynamic of consent in what could be an empowering way. The aims to change the power structure of the “hook-up” and making it law, in hopes that college sexual assaults will decrease especially with mandated campus climate surveys. The legislation, proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and called "Enough is Enough," was passed unanimously by the state Legislature.
Governor Andrew Cuomo is breaking down barriers with his legislation. This is a progressive movement in favor of reducing sexual crime in colleges. The Yes Means Yes Policy is formally articulated as such:
An act to amend the education law, in relation to the implementation by colleges and universities of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking prevention and response policies and procedures; and to amend the civil practice law and rules, in relation to privacy of name in certain legal challenges to college/university disciplinary findings; and making appropriations...
So if “Yes Means Yes” is passed in New York? Why not everywhere else? Here are Five Reasons why the rest of the United States should follow their lead.
1- Fulfill the Need for a Uniform Definition of Affirmative Consent to Sexual Activity
All ambiguity will be relinquished when states implement a statewide definition of affirmative consent. The definition for New York reads as follows:
"Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant's sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."
If implemented on a national level, or even on a state level, it will relinquish confusion of the boundaries of affirmative consent. This will aid in confusing legislation and court cases, because the meaning would be clear and concise nationwide and statewide.
2- Policy for Alcohol and/or Drug Use Amnesty
Provides that no bystander or victim that reports, in good faith, any incident of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, will be charged with an alcohol or drug use violation of the institution's code of conduct.
This is a great step in the direction for students to build their faith in the universities, and coming forward for crimes that happen during parties, and outings. The people affected are college students and most cases are likely to happen during events in which alcohol is involved.
3- Increases Options for Survivors
Requires that an institution adopt and implement a "Students' Bill of Rights" as part of its code of conduct. The Bill of Rights shall include, but is not limited to, the opportunity to report a sexual assault to law enforcement or the institution, to be protected from retaliation, and to access services and resources. The Bill of Rights shall be distributed widely to students and college community members and shall be sent electronically to students at least once annually.
The student bill of rights allows options for survivors to confess crimes and seek justice. The availability of two options will likely increase chances of reporting crime.
4- Student Onboarding and Ongoing Education Campaign
Requires institutions to develop and implement a year-around, ongoing campaign on sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking education and prevention.
With students on board and informed about sexual assault, they will potentially begin to stand up against crime and spread the message across campus. This shows how the students have power with their voices.
5- Campus Climate Surveys/Assessments and Improvement
Institutions will be required to conduct a campus climate survey (assessment) developed using standard and commonly recognized research methods, and to conduct the climate survey no less than every other year. Each institution will ensure that answers to Campus Climate Surveys remain anonymous and that no individual respondent is identified. Each institution shall also publish the high-level results of such surveys on their website provided that no personally identifiable information shall be shared.
This requires the disclosure of public information of Campus Climate Surveys while also keeping it’s respondents as anonymous. All information will be broadcasted on their university websites, giving students and parents access to instances of sexual assault as well as students general attitude about the campus climate.
Campus climate surveys will create the transparency institutions needs to know where they stand and prioritize areas they need to improve.
Domino Effect? “Yes Means Yes” Law May Be Applicable For The Rest
Many states have already have some form of sexual assault policy and implementation strategy. The feasibility of implementing the “Yes Means Yes” policy statewide (and strictly only in federally funded colleges and universities) can mean that other states can easily adopt these policies, because they already currently exist.
The “Yes Means Yes” policy (S5965), requires all colleges and universities in the State of New York to implement uniform prevention and response policies and procedures relating to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. There is already existing policy in states like Michigan. Why shouldn’t states follow New York’s lead with “Yes Means Yes” policy and campus climate surveys?
All in all, “Yes Means Yes” law has been improved, refined, clarified and successfully implemented in two US states. Due to it’s broad scope of policy, it is malleable and able to mold and custom-fit into different colleges and universities. It holds a huge capability of spreading around the nation and going viral. With that, it has great potential to be applicable to the rest of the states. The only question is, will they begin to follow suit?