Sep 04 2014

California Attempts to Stem Campus Rape Epidemic Through New Law

One of the most dangerous places a young woman can be today is a college campus. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted at colleges and universities in the United States each year and rape is the most under-reported crime among students.

At Columbia University, a student by the name of Emma Sulkowicz has been protesting her school’s inaction over her rape at the hands of a fellow student through the use of an innovative piece of performance art. Ms. Sulkowicz has drawn attention to her struggle for justice by lugging around a twin size dormitory mattress with her at all times on campus. She is one of 23 students to have filed a federal Title IX complaint against Columbia University.

With colleges doing little to prosecute rapists for fear of tarnishing their reputations, the Federal Government assembled a task force to look at alarming rates of campus sexual assault. In July a bipartisan group of US Senators created the Campus Safety and Accountability Act which calls for, among other things, anonymous student surveys to assess the level of sexual assault on campus.

At the state level, California has become the first in the nation to craft a bill to help colleges evaluate sexual assault allegations. The bill, which is being called the ‘Yes Means Yes’ measure, states that students must get affirmative consent or a verbal ‘yes’ in order for the sex to qualify as consensual. A college’s failure to use this guideline when ruling on sexual assault cases could result in a loss of state funding. While many are lauding the bill’s intentions, some critics find some of the bill’s wording vague and hence problematic. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of this month.

GUEST: Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief of RH Reality Check


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