‘Yes Means Yes’ bill, like SWC administration, won’t protect students

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Cartoon by Dan Cordero

Cartoon by Dan Cordero

“No means no” is officially no longer.

Sexual assault campaigns must now update their slogans as the infamous “no means no” is now the controversial “yes means yes.” Now yes could mean no and no could mean yes, which makes it difficult to understand what yes and no actually are.

If you are confused, you should be.

California’s legislature passed Senate Bill 967 this fall in an attempt to define consensual sex. State-supported schools, including Southwestern College, will lose funding if they do not implement policies to promote victim-centered sexual assault awareness and provide written information on where to find help.

SB 967 outlines a legal consensual agreement to engage in sexual activity before the main event. Lack of resistance, silence, past history of sexual relations and even being in a relationship are not considered indicators of consent under the new law.

Some may see this as a potential “mood killer.” Naysayers grumble that a current girlfriend/boyfriend/partner could possibly claim they were assaulted if a written contract is not signed prior to sex.

Actually though, the problem with the bill is that it is too weak.

It is difficult to understand how the government could even attempt to regulate sex on college campuses or how these fictitious personal contracts straight out of “Fifty Shades of Grey” could be standardized to show consent.

While the intention of the bill is an honorable attempt to define consensual sex, creating a confusing law and making rapists seem like someone who misjudged their partners’ consent do not help victims of sexual assault get justice. Rather, SB 967 trivializes the severity of sexual assault crimes and does not prevent perpetrators from assaulting anyone else in the future.

Campus safety is serious business. Our legislators should know that preventing sexual assault will take way more effort than something like SB 967. This legislation does not fully address the issue of campus mismanagement of sexual assault crimes and does not lay out any punishment for perpetrators. That it is left up to colleges that already have a history of mishandling sexual assault crimes.

Increasingly-opaque SWC is among these colleges. Asking SWC administrators for higher safety standards is like asking Justin Bieber to grow up. Students here cannot easily file grievances, endure no-show campus police escorts and have no available records of any assaults (or crimes in general). SWC is not equipped with the resources or will needed to handle sexual assault cases.

Officials, faculty and even campus police were not sufficiently trained to handle situations such as rape, harassment or any other types of assault previous to this bill. Ask our college president about sexual assault policies and she will answer, “I’ll look into that.” (She won’t.)

Maybe Sacramento has SWC’s attention now. SB 967 would take away funding and financial aid from colleges that fail to comply and SWC is in the bull’s eye. Our college ought to be scrambling to retrain its officials and faculty and looking to amend its toothless policies.

Unfortunately, our dean of student services, the Queen of Darkness Mia McClellan, seems more interested in re-writing the student grievance policy so that she can lock out the student news media. The Queen, as usual, is moving in the wrong direction, toward darkness rather than toward the light. Here is hoping our SCC has the courage to tell McClellan no means no.

SB 967 at least has made colleges reconsider their policies, but claiming to be victim-centered is not enough. Actions speak louder than words, except at SWC.

“Student victims have the option to change their academic situation after an alleged sexual assault, if such changes are reasonably available,” reads the Campus Crime Report 2012.

Sounds great, but these are hollow words at SWC where victims are often further victimized and perpetrators get hand slaps and scholarships. It is still difficult to understand why a victim of sexual assault should have to be on the same campus, let alone the same classroom, as their assaulter. Women forced to face their rapist every day on campus is too unbelievable even for Lifetime Network movie. But it happens here.

“You have the right to file a civil suit for losses suffered as result of abuse,” reads the campus police website. Young women at SWC should be lawyering up. Our student newspaper alone has lost three women to verbal, psychological and physical violence on this campus recently while our police department and administration failed to protect them.

Instead of advising women to hire a lawyer, SWC should support students who have been victimized by making the grievance process easier and treating the victim with sensitivity and respect.

“Campus sanctions, following campus disciplinary procedures depend on the outcome of the investigation and may range from suspension to expulsion,” reads the Campus Crime Report 2012. Or a slap on the wrist, a scholarship and the tacit okay to keep on acting like a brute, bully or barbarian like some seriously-twisted male perpetrators get here at SWC.

It is still difficult to understand what it actually takes to be expelled from SWC.  Ebola Girl embarrassed administrators, so she is likely gone, but bullies who assault teenage women are welcomed to stay for as long as they wish.

SB 967 allows colleges to sweep these situations under the rug because it states that the college is to provide protections for the privacy of individuals involved, including confidentiality. As Queen, er, Dean McClellan has recently demonstrated, our administrators’ “interpretation” of a rule could mean we never know if a crime was punished or not. Usually not, since we literally see the bad guys strutting around on campus.

SB 967 will also be difficult to uphold in court. Considering that sexual relations usually occur between two participants, there are no witnesses, no recordings, and no way to prove that anything happened without a potentially painful and humiliating physical exam that shows damage may have occurred from the complainant resisting the act. Physical exams usually cause more trauma for the victim. Most victims are too afraid to even have the exam done or it is too late when they decide to have it done. Most cases remain a “he said, she said” argument, which the perpetrator usually wins.

SB 967 is weak. It fails to outline how “yes means yes” will be enforced. It fails to explain how it will keep the colleges accountable for updating their policies. It fails to improve transparency for students. “Rape means rape” and all the cleverly-worded legislation means nothing if a college campus lacks the courage, morality and decency to protect its young women.

SB 967, like Southwestern College, fails its women.

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