Recently, the public eye has been drawn to sexual assault on college campuses amid what many news reporters, like Tara Culp-Ressler of Thinkprogress.org, are calling a “campus rape crisis.” Some college students are claiming that universities refused to process rape allegations and do not punish rapists severely enough. This news frenzy produced the “Yes Means Yes” bill, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 28, 2014. The “Yes Means Yes” bill states that there must be “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement” throughout the sexual activity. It also states that silence or a lack of resistance does not mean consent and that consent cannot be given by someone who is sleeping, inebriated or unconscious. This has made California the first state in the country to define the terms of when two people agree to have sex. The name of the bill, “Yes Means Yes”, came from an anti-rape campaign. In the past few years, anti-rape campaigns have been trying to make the lines clearer in sexual assault cases, changing their slogan from “No Means No” and instead working to define what is consent in a sexual interaction. With this new positive slogan and law, university campuses are beginning to educate students and faculty about the “Yes Means Yes” bill, hoping to changing the “rape environment” that some students say exists in universities. In our area, women have charged UCLA, USC and Occidental College of failing to investigate rape changes.
Amid these allegations, the Cal State University system has appointed an overseer for Title IX training and education, Pamela Thomason. Thomason, who is an attorney and currently the Title IX compliance officer at UCLA, has been hired to help reduce sexual violence on campus by training faculty and students about these issues.
I talked to Pamela Thomason about this topic. I asked her what advice she had for high school boys and girls. She said that it was difficult to condense it into something that could be used for a high school newspaper but said “[The] Number one rule for boys: Do not have sex with drunk girls.” She elaborated and said that for both girls and boys, her advice is to focus on prevention and to take care of each other. Sexual misconduct is committed by few people who are usually close to the victims. She said one of the most important things is to “[s]tep in when someone is trying to separate someone who is intoxicated. Make sure your friends are safe. They will thank you even if they do not remember why.” Pamela Thomason’s job now is to teach students and employees at all 23 Cal State Universities about sexual harassment and sexual consent. The “Yes Means Yes” legislation helps because it is about respecting and protecting your partner; making it clear to both men and women what is rape, what is consensual sex and what is consent.