College Students Push Lawmakers to Approve "Yes Means Yes" Law | Connecticut Public Radio

College Students Push Lawmakers to Approve "Yes Means Yes" Law

Mar 3, 2016

Yes means yes.

That's essentially what affirmative consent means: that all parties who engage in a sexual activity have to clearly indicate that they want to. 

"My friends are scared, and I am scared," said Yale student Hannah Schmitt, speaking to the General Assembly's Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee on Tuesday.

"We are scared because we live in a world that does not hear us, not only when we say no, but also when we do not say yes," she said.

Concern about sexual assaults on college campuses has led to legislation that would change the definition of consent. Affirmative consent is supposed to be obvious, enthusiastic and ongoing. It's different from the "no means no" standard that's been the reality at colleges across the country for decades.

UConn, Yale, and the state's 17 public colleges require consent be affirmative, but the Connecticut proposal would make it apply to all colleges and universities in the state. It would also strengthen the sexual assault investigation process by providing a common framework for all schools to use.

But not everyone supports the pending bill.

Wilton lawyer Shelley Dempsey said the proposal could make it easier for people to make false allegations. Dempsey helps an organization that deals with students who have been wrongfully accused of sexual assault.

"The affirmative consent standard allows otherwise consensual encounters to be recast as an assault after the fact," Dempsey said.

In fact, she said the current law is problematic as it is.

"There are hundreds and hundreds of boys who have been expelled and suspended from their universities for things that were not sexual assault," she said.

Advocates of affirmative consent say the idea is long overdue. The measure passed the Senate last year but never made it to a House vote.