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18 And Clueless: How California’s Proposed Affirmative Consent Law Could Have Helped Me

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February 13, 2014

I remember my very first week of college, my first real night at a college party. Newly independent and recently single, I was determined to have a night I’d never forget. I pulled myself together in an outfit I’m sure I was very proud of at the time (though, in retrospect, #fashionmistakecentral), downed some shots, and set off to dance and try to meet boys.

I had a nice time but didn’t meet anyone, so around 1am I decided to head back to my dorm room by myself. When I was almost there, I heard a voice calling at me from a car driving next to me. It was a boy, a cute boy, and he asked where I was headed.  He told me that he was an RA at a neighboring college and asked if he could walk me home. I was naive, I was drunk and I was only 18 years old, so I let him.

I didn’t say no, not at first. I wasn’t really sure what was going on or if I was supposed to be okay with it or not.  Maybe this is what college was, maybe strange boys “walking” (read: following) you home, pushing you against the wall and putting their hands up your skirt was just a normal Friday. I was fresh out of high school, no one had really talked to me about assault, I didn’t know what was happening or how to react. Eventually I realized, I didn’t know this guy, I didn’t want to sleep with him and I didn’t want him to touch me.  By this point we were in front of my door so I asked him to leave. He grew agitated and upset but after around 45 minutes of insisting he finally left me with, “You’re seriously not going to fuck me?” He took a few steps and looked back at me, “That’s kinda hot…”

I’ve written extensively about the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, for ChoiceWords and for publications on campus. It’s an issue close to my heart. That’s why I was so happy to see a new bill proposed in my home state of California which would require colleges and universities to adopt “victim-centered” response strategies and prevention methods on campus, as well as establish affirmative consent as the standard to determine whether or not consent was given. That means that in order for a sexual encounter to be consensual, both parties must affirmatively and verbally consent by saying yes. Quoted in the Sacramento Bee, co-author Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson says, “It seems sexual assault is treated as an inevitable part of the college experience, and instead of fighting to change it, schools simply overlook it. We’re here to change that paradigm.”

I’m asking you to help change that paradigm. College campuses can be particularly vulnerable spaces, full of young people with access to lots of alcohol who are often far away from home. Affirmative consent laws will help to protect victims who don’t know how to say no but who never got the chance to say yes either. Please show your support for Senate Bill 967 by calling or emailing your state senator and by encouraging others to do the same.

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