Councilwoman Calls Hearings on “Yes Means Yes” Sexual Assault Policies

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(PHILADELPHIA, PA) December 11, 2014—Today, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown called for hearings to investigate how Philadelphia colleges and universities might move toward adopting “Yes Means Yes” policies on sexual assault. The hearings are in response to the recent passage of California Bill SB-967 which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 28, 2014.

The bill marks a dramatic shift in what constitutes consent. In the past, the standard has required victims to proactively say “no” and or demonstrate verbal or physical resistance, thus the refrain, “No Means No.” This law requires California higher educational institutions to adopt an “affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by a complainant,” or risk losing state funding, referred to commonly as “Yes Means Yes.” Perceived lack of resistance, unconsciousness or inebriation is no longer a viable defense for an
accused attacker.

The bill defines “affirmative consent” as follows:

An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

“Our current system is rigged to protect the attacker and blame, embarrass and discredit the victim. We need to have an honest, frank dialogue about how we ‘un-stack’ the deck against victims of sexual assault,” said Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. “We know that one in five women on college campuses will be the victim of sexual assault. More and more brave victims are coming forward, only to find out that their school does not have their back, or wants to sweep it under the rug. The time for that way of thinking has expired. It is
time for us to have the conversation with higher education leaders out in the open, for everyone to hear.”

On May 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights released a list of higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints that included Ivy League institutions like Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth, along with five Pennsylvania Schools: Temple University, Franklin and Marshall College, Penn State University, Swarthmore College and Carnegie Mellon University. The Department confirms that over 90 colleges and universities are under investigation for possible violations of Title IX, which bans discrimination based on gender in all education programs and activities by any institution that receives federal funding.

The bill will have a hearing in the Council Committee on Education. Councilwoman Reynolds Brown will extend an invitation to the Presidents of all colleges and universities in the City of Philadelphia.

For additional information, quotes or to request an interview with the Councilwoman, please contact Communications Manager Jason Lewis at 215-686-3438 or 267-250-2925.

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has passed meaningful legislation and supported valuable community programming that positively impacts her core issues:  children and youth, women, education, small business development, arts and culture and the environment and sustainability. Councilwoman Reynolds Brown is the only woman to win an At-Large Council seat since 1999.

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