Maryland should follow the lead of California and other states in adopting legislation aimed at reducing the number of sexual assaults that occur on college and university campuses.

The California State Assembly this month is expected to vote on legislation that would require colleges to adopt an "affirmative consent standard" as part of their sexual assault policies or risk losing state money, according to the Associated Press.


Sexual assault on college campuses has garnered nation attention due to several high profile cases. In January, President Barack Obama created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to look at the issue. The task force recommended in April, among other steps, that colleges adopt a comprehensive sexual misconduct policy.

"One in five women is sexually assaulted in college. Most often, it's by someone she knows – and also most often, she does not report what happened. Many survivors are left feeling isolated, ashamed or to blame. Although it happens less often, men, too, are victims of these crimes," the report's executive summary noted.

Some groups dispute the 1 in 5 statistic as inaccurate. The number comes from a 2007 Department of Justice survey. But the Independent Women's Forum on its website notes that the study was a Web-based survey circulated to a random sample of 5,446 undergraduate women at two major public universities, and the response rate was only about 42 percent at each of the institutions, according to the organization.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told Time Magazine in June that, "The people who feel the most strongly about the survey, for whatever reason, are the most likely to respond."

On the other side of the coin, however, are statistics that indicate only a small percentage of sexual assaults on campus are ever reported.

Regardless of the statistics, students should be safe on campus. A May Baltimore Sun article noted that in 2012, "71 forcible-sex offenses, which include rape and other sexual assaults, were reported at the state's four- and two-year colleges."

California's proposed legislation clearly outlines what does, and what does not constitute consent.

The legislation reads in part, "Affirmative consent means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent."

It also notes that "affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time."

Maryland has taken some steps in recent years in an effort to combat sexual assault on campus, but much more can be done. State leaders should look at California, and other states across the nation, and craft legislation to make our college and university campuses safe for all students.