New York Governor Cuomo pushes for 'affirmative consent' campus sex assault bill
New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) gives the State of the State address on Jan. 8, 2014 in Albany, New York [AFP]

(Reuters) - New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday that he would push for legislation requiring both public and private universities in the state to enact a uniform sexual assault policy requiring "affirmative consent" in their definitions of consensual sex.

Speaking at New York University in Manhattan, Cuomo, a Democrat, said codifying a sexual assault policy across all campuses would make it easier for victims to report crimes.

"One out of four women are victims, but only 5 percent are being reported," Cuomo said. "When you leave alone a crime, you allow the criminal to do it again. And that’s what we’re doing now."

The legislation would expand on a law adopted in California in September requiring all universities that receive public funding to adopt a "yes-means-yes" policy, part of a nationwide effort to curb sexual assaults on campuses.

The "yes-means-yes" standard defines sexual consent between people as an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.

Cuomo said on Saturday that the proposed New York law would be binding on both public and private universities, unlike the California law, which is limited to state-funded institutions. It would also include more requirements for enforcement.

The proposal includes four points: affirmative consent language, immunity from drug or alcohol violations for students reporting an assault, a bill of rights for the victim, and policy training for all school officials.

The law would be modeled after a policy rolled out at the State University of New York (SUNY) colleges and universities, covering more than 460,000 students.

Cuomo said he believed the law would set a national precedent.

Opponents of the "yes-means-yes" standard say the measure is intrusive and an over-reach of government into private lives.

The measure could meet some resistance in the New York State Legislature. State Senator Kenneth LaValle, a Long Island Republican, told political site Capital New York last year that the affirmative consent standard was "not practical."

But Cuomo stressed the urgency of his proposal. "I believe there are institutions that want to protect their relationship and they don't want the publicity of the attacks happening on their campus," he said, "so they do what they can to tamp it down."

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere)