Yes or no? In the context of sexual consent, these words carry great power. However, it is believed that one of these responses is more apt than the other to protect victims of rape and condemn those accused of rape. For years the word “no” has been pivotal to the consent movement surrounding cases of sexual assault, made popular by the saying, "no means no." However, in cases of sexual assault where victims are unable to give consent by saying no, this word falls short of its desired goal. Recognizing these problems, the state of California has taken steps to ensure that victims of rape and assault are protected in cases where they are physically unable to give consent.
On Sunday, Sept. 28, California Gov. Jerry Brown officially signed the "Yes Means Yes" bill into law. This bill has been widely debated and faces heavy scrutiny because it challenges the “no means no” ideology. The bill states that in any sexual act both partners need to give consent in the form of a “yes” instead of a"no."
The signing of this bill has benefited women by providing a clear definition of consent. The law also clarifies what is considered both sexual misconduct and rape. The “Yes Means Yes” law states, “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.” This clarification and strict definition of rape is expected to have a large impact on the number of sexual assault cases reported at colleges in California. There are numerous individuals affected by this new law because about one in every four college women are said to experience sexual assault.
The public relations efforts promoting the signing of the bill specifically targeted college-aged women. Much of the promotion utilized social media and brought key points of the bill to public attention. This promotional strategy spurred conversation in other states about the problems surrounding consent in cases of rape and sexual assault. Targeting the right publics and where they will look for information has allowed this law to be known throughout the United States, connecting all women to a legislative cause that seeks to change more than just language.
Public relations teams built off of this law’s momentum and developed the White House’s new public service announcement (PSA),“1 is 2 MANY.” This PSA targets a male audience. The inclusion of male celebrities and leaders speaking out against sexual assault is intended to increase the number of men in support of the “Yes Means Yes” law. The precedence this law has set will not be overlooked thanks to the strategies which have not only spread awareness about the new law, but also the information included in the law and how it can protect both women and men.
By Chloe Kasper
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.