PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNOR'S PRESS OFFICE
Combating sexual assault on college campuses has become a focal point of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s political platform with his signing the “Enough is Enough” legislation into law, explicitly defining “affirmative consent.” PHOTO CREDIT: GOVERNOR’S PRESS OFFICE

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the “Enough Is Enough” legislation into law Tuesday, July 7 at New York University School of Law in an effort to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

“Today, New York is making a clear and bold statement: sexual violence is a crime, and from now on in this state it will be investigated and prosecuted like one,” Cuomo said in a press release. “With this law, we will better protect every student that attends college within our borders, and I am proud New York is leading the way once again.”

The bill defines consent with a “yes means yes” policy, requiring both parties to give a clear, affirmative agreement.

The law itself states: “Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

It also creates a victims’ bill of rights and a statewide amnesty policy, ensuring students who are reporting incidents are granted immunity from campus rules, such as drug or alcohol violations.

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“[Victims of sexual assault] have a right to a counselor, they have a right to have it investigated by campus police, or they have the right to go to law enforcement right now,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo launched his “Enough Is Enough” campaign on Feb. 25 to raise awareness in New York State.

The campaign created a new 24-hour hotline — 1-844-845-7269 — to report a sexual assault. The New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline — 1-800-942-6906 — also provides confidential support services.

52 state and local organizations joined Cuomo’s “Enough Is Enough” campaign, including A New Hope Center, End Rape on Campus, Suffolk County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Center for the Women of New York.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg was one of the first people to sign on to the “Enough Is Enough” campaign.

“Today, Governor Cuomo is standing up to reinforce the message that turning a blind eye to sexual assault on college campuses will no longer be tolerated,” Goldberg said in a press release. “Enough is enough, and it is time we deliver on our promise to make all students safer and all victims heard.”

Other people involved included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Lady Gaga, who co-authored an op-ed with Cuomo.

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“This plan encourages victims to speak up and provides a uniform policy for handling accusations throughout all New York State colleges,” said Carl Heastie, the speaker of the New York State Assembly and a Stony Brook University alum, in a press release. “The Assembly has worked diligently to see this bill become a law and I am pleased that Governor Cuomo has taken the lead in making this a reality.”

The new law requires the creation of a “sexual assault victims unit” within the State Police, with a focus on advanced training in responding to sexual assaults and helping campus police. It will also provide $10 million to help combat campus sexual assault, split between rape crisis centers, State Police and colleges and universities.

“The law provides a clear path to combat and eradicate campus sexual assault and a course of action for victims.” said state Sen. Kenneth LaValle, the chairman of the Senate of Higher Education Committee, in a press release. “It provides for education of all college students; recommends methods of prevention, and provides assurance of due process in the adjudication of these incidents. It addresses the complex issues and will better protect our college students across the state.”

The new law applies to all state and private universities and colleges in New York State. SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said that SUNY’s first job is to keep its students safe.

“The ‘Enough is Enough’ legislation signed today is a promise of safe and secure learning environments for students attending college anywhere in New York State, and SUNY has been proud to serve as the policy model for these comprehensive reforms,” Zimpher said in a press release.

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