Local colleges react to California’s sex assault law

College students have heard a similar refrain for years in campaigns to stop sexual assault: No means no.

Now, as universities around the country that are facing pressure over the handling of rape allegations adopt policies to define consensual sex, California is poised to take it a step further. Lawmakers recently passed what would be the first-in-the-nation measure requiring all colleges that receive public funds to set a standard for when “yes means yes.”

The California bill requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.”

Officials say silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. The legislation says it’s also not consent if the person is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep.

“It’s awesome because a lot of girls aren’t in their right mind. Especially if they’re drunk, they can’t make true decisions,” said Malia Harvey, 18, a University of Dayton freshman. “Having full 100 percent consent is definitely great.”

The University of Dayton declined to comment but instead referred this newspaper to their policies regarding sexual assaults on campus. That policy reads: “There is no consent when someone engaging in sexual behavior knew or should have known that the other person was incapacitated. Effective consent is granted when a person freely, actively and knowingly agrees at the time to participate in a particular sexual act with a particular person.”

At Miami University, officials said there are clear expectations and a definition of consent as outlined in the school’s Code of Conduct.

“Miami policy is not stated the same as California’s law, although, essentially, the components are similar,” said Susan Vaughn, Director of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution.

“Consent must be voluntary,” Miami’s Code of Conduct sates. “An individual cannot consent who is substantially impaired by any drug or intoxicant; or who has been compelled by force, threat of force, or deception; or if the accused substantially impairs the victim’s judgment or control by administering any drug, intoxicant or controlled substance to the other person surreptitiously or by force, threat of force or deception; or who is unaware that the act is being committed; or whose ability to consent is impaired because of a mental or physical condition; or who is coerced by supervisory or disciplinary authority. Consent may be withdrawn at any time. Prior sexual activity or relationship does not, in and of itself, constitute consent.”

In 1993, Antioch College made national headlines for its Sexual Offense Prevention Policy. According to the school’s student handbook, “All sexual interactions at Antioch College must be consensual. Consent means verbally asking and verbally giving or denying consent for all levels of sexual behavior. Non-consensual sexual behavior, verbal and sexual harassment are not tolerated at Antioch College.”

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said she has not heard of any such bills being considered in Ohio.

“I think it is the right policy. I just don’t know how you’d enforce it,” she said.

Last May three Ohio schools — Wittenberg, Denison and Ohio State universities — were among 55 across the U.S. facing federal investigation for the way they handle sexual abuse allegations by their students.

The Associated Press and staff writer Laura Bischoff contributed to this report.

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