SUNY’s New Sexual Assault Policy Will Focus on Affirmative Consent

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press conference on new corruption legislation on April 9, 2013 in New York City.  Cuomo announced the Public Trust Act which would establish a new class of corruption crimes and require officials to report corruption. New York State politicians were arrested in two bribery cases last week.
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Here’s a promising move in the fight against campus sexual assault: Governor Cuomo announced today that he has ordered SUNY schools to revamp their sexual assault guidelines, with affirmative consent as the centerpiece. The policy change will include a shift to focus on “preventing, investigating and prosecuting sexual assault,” according to the New York Times, and will go into effect over the next 60 days.

Cuomo said in a press conference on Thursday that the new rules are the first step in implementing a law that would regulate sexual assault guidelines for all universities in New York. The rules will focus on affirmative consent, defining consent as “clear, knowing and voluntary … active, not passive.”

From the Times:

Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.”

Consent need not be verbal, but it must be unambiguous and mutual. “Consent to any one form of sexual activity cannot automatically imply consent to any other forms of sexual activity,” the rules will say.

The new program echoes California’s recently passed Yes Means Yes law, which redefines the definition of consent.