Sobering Statistics for Social Change

Unfortunately, we too often hear reports of sexual abuse at our colleges. So much so that recently, California enacted a somewhat controversial law known as the “yes means yes law”. This may be a good start as far as sending a stronger message to colleges that sexual assault or abuse will not be dismissed as easily and that their handling of such cases may come under greater scrutiny.

Brian Turner (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

However, we should be realistic of what limitations a law like this has. As with any legislation, just because a law is written, it does not necessarily mean that it will be complied with. We already have laws that make drug use and underage drinking illegal but they still continue. Another argument is that it has the capability to trade off one group of victims for another. Some insist that it will give the accusers too much power over the accused and that some of the innocent may pay the price along with the guilty. This may be true to a certain extent however this is not much different than what is already in place. The law mainly attempts to clarify if consent was given.
It may be questionable if fraternities will be encouraged to start video recording their sexual exploits so they will have proof if a member is taken into court. While this action would most likely violate California law, there are about 38 other states that at least an audio recording would be allowed (AAPS, 2015). This may cause additional problems if this law were to be enacted in those states.
Overall, it would appear that the effectiveness of this law will be questionable at best. It would seem much more effective to address drinking and drug use in order to curb sexual assaults on campuses. In the 18-24 age group, it is estimated that there are over 97,000 students each year that fall victim to alcohol related sexual assault. Additionally, there are approximately 100,000 students that report that they have been too intoxicated to know if they actually consented to sex (NIAAA, 2013). It is here that the new law may fail to have any greater impact than what is already in place. Discouraging or reducing alcohol overconsumption and drug use should reduce the number of sexual assaults and also serve to help prevent alcohol related deaths from drinking which totals approximately 1825 college students each year.
This issue may be best served by using participatory action research with its ability to delve deeper into the culture and subcultures that can exist in colleges (Rescuescg, 2015). By using input from the participants it seeks to better target the intended audience and could guide the selection of more relevant techniques to reach that audience. It may also help identify the best approach to educate new students about these issues. It may also aid in determining whether wearable tech devices are a practical option. Currently, there are some proposed devices to identify if a date rape drug is present in a drink and there is a challenge by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to create a wearable device that will measure blood alcohol in real time (NIAAA, 2015).
Most would agree that the “yes means yes law” is not meant to stand alone in the battle of sexual abuse in our colleges and it will require additional support if our goal is to reduce or eliminate this behavior in our colleges.


Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. (2015). Summary of Consent Requirements for Taping Telephone Conversations. Retrieved from

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2013). College Drinking. Retrieved from

Rescuescg. (2010). Functional Analysis for Cultural Interventions. Retrieved from

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