Sexual assault survivors urge governor to sign affirmative consent bill at state capitol

Adrienne Shih/Staff

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SACRAMENTO — About 10 UC students rallied at the state capitol Tuesday to push Gov. Jerry Brown to sign Senate Bill 967 — legislation that would create an affirmative consent standard in California colleges — before the end of the legislative session.

Students from UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Davis gave speeches on the steps of the capitol building in support of the bill, which states that consent in sexual activity between parties is an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement.” Students also hand delivered a petition to Brown’s office, urging him to sign the legislation immediately.

If approved, college campuses will be required to implement “victim-centered” policies and protocols, which would ensure community organizations, counseling and legal assistance are available for sexual assault survivors.

Savannah Badalich, a UCLA senior and sexual assault survivor who helped organize Tuesday’s events, noted the difficulty for some survivors to speak about the issue or file reports against assailants.

“There’s nothing that would do more good, because ‘yes means yes’ seems like common sense, but we don’t have it in action,” Badalich said. “That’s the reason why I didn’t report.”

Senator Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles — who introduced the bill — said a majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are young men.

“Men have to help change the culture on college campuses,” he said at the press conference. “We can move and pass laws, but culture is always much more challenging.”

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said the university supports the legislation and the UC sexual harassment and violence policy already mirrors the proposed law due to systemwide changes released in March.

California State University campuses are also in support of the bill and have existing policies similar to SB 967.

“As a university system that has over 450,000 students, student safety is a priority,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, director of public affairs of the CSU Chancellor’s Office. “We’re doing whatever we can to ensure that students have a safe environment in which to learn.”

UC Berkeley junior Meghan Warner and senior Aryle Butler, who have helped spearhead a campus movement against sexual assault, gave personal accounts of their experiences, emphasizing what Warner called a lack of “amnesty” for those who witness assault.

Warner and Butler were among 31 individuals who filed federal complaints against UC Berkeley in February. In response to the Title IX complaint, the U.S. Department of Education launched a federal probe of UC Berkeley in March, which is ongoing.

Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill, which, if approved, would make California the first state to require an affirmative consent standard for sexual assault policies on college campuses.

“This bill deserves Governor Brown’s signature,” Butler said at the press conference. “It doesn’t only deserve it — it requires it.”

Contact Adrienne Shih and Jean Lee at [email protected].