The Case for ‘Yes Means Yes’


A National Day of Action Against Rape Culture.

On Sept. 28, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law the “Yes Means Yes” bill. The new law is aimed at reducing sexual assault on California’s college campuses by requiring affirmative consent before sexual activity. In other words, the person who initiates sexual contact must receive a clear “yes” from their partner.

In addition the law stipulates that the absence of a no does not mean yes, and that someone who is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol cannot give their consent.

Critics of “Yes Means Yes” say that the law is unfair and creates unnecessary restrictions that will do nothing but create confusion as to what consent is and isn’t. While it is admittedly not perfect, this law is a step in the right direction towards correcting a widespread issue.

Sexual misconduct is sadly prevalent on college campuses across the nation. According to a 2012 report on sexual violence by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 37.4 percent of female rape victims who were surveyed were first raped between the ages of 18-24.

A large part of the problem surrounding sexual assault awareness is that many are misinformed as to who the most likely offenders are. The fact of the matter is that assault doesn’t always happen in a dark alley at the hands of a hooded stranger. As reported by the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), 73 percent of sexual assaults are by someone the victim previously knows.

One such case is that of Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz. Sulkowicz was raped by a male classmate during her sophomore year at Columbia. The rapist is still a student at Columbia however because university officials failed to side with Sulkowicz when she tried to take action.

Sulkowicz made national headlines earlier this year when she took part in a protest against Columbia’s decision to not expel her rapist by carrying her dorm mattress with her everywhere on campus. The mattress isn’t a gimmick or an art piece, but a symbol of trauma that represents the burden Sulkowicz has to live with.

The good news? A nationwide analysis by the Washington Post of sexual crimes on college campuses between 2010-2012 stated that Northeastern Illinois had no reported forcible sex offenses on campus. So does this mean that the state of Illinois doesn’t need to adopt its own version of a “Yes Means Yes” law? Not so fast.

Western Illinois University reported a total of 29 forcible sex offenses between 2010-2012. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign came in at second highest with a total of 22 forcible offenses. With future plans to build dorms, Northeastern might see its number of forcible sex offenses change and it is important that more awareness is brought to the subject of what consent is and isn’t.