Recently, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill outlining what truly constitutes consent for sexual activity. California is the first state to have a bill of this kind. The bill adopts a ‘yes means yes’ policy stating that consent can only be given by someone who is awake and sober. Consent is not valid if the person is drunk, drugged, asleep, or unconscious. The bill also addresses how universities and colleges handle rape allegations.
This bill is a huge deal for California, and the universities in the state. As university students, we know that sexual assault and rape is a reality that we all must be aware of, and being a woman heightens the risk. As women, we are taught not to take drinks from strangers, get too drunk, or walk alone at night so that we don’t put ourselves in a vulnerable position. This new bill combats these things.
While many people are in favour of this new legislation, some people criticize it. There is a concern that this could place false blame on people. If, for example, both parties were extremely drunk, then neither of them could give consent. How would a situation like that be handled?
In Canada, the law regarding sexual assault does not specify if consent is valid under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Instead, what constitutes consent is determined on a case-by-case basis. It does, however, outline that consent is invalid if a person uses force, threatens, is fraudulent, or is exercising their authority. Sentencing of sexual assault is based off of the accused and the victim’s testimony. A large factor involved is whether the accused truly did believe that consent was given.
These two systems have some very strong qualities. However, both seem imperfect. One has the potential to place false blame, whereas the other has a number of variables that could lead to a guilty person walking away scot-free. The question remains, what is the best way to ensure safety and handle sexual assault properly? No matter what the wording of the law is, rape and sexual assault are never okay. Remember: consensual is sensual, everything else is rape.
Many people don’t know what to do in the event of a sexual assault. Sexual assault is no one’s fault except for the perpetrator. Contacting the police is the best way to address sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and you would like information or support, you can call the Sexual Assault Support Centre 24 hours a day at 519-741-8633.