A bill that will require New Mexico health classes to include instruction on affirmative consent before and during sexual activity passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously, 9 to 0, on Monday. HB 43, Affirmative Consent Policy in Schools, sponsored by House Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, will, if enacted, require affirmative consent to be taught across all New Mexico public and charter schools in either middle or high school health class. The bill also requires higher educational institutions to implement trauma-informed policies that meet an affirmative consent standard. The bill, which has received broad bipartisan support in previous years, received very little discussion among committee members. House Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, asked questions around if a higher education institution would initiate a criminal prosecution if the institution failed to meet the standard.
The House Education Committee passed the Affirmative Consent bill 8-2 on Wednesday. The bill, HB 43, sponsored by state Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, would, if enacted, require New Mexico public schools to provide educational training on what affirmative consent means when engaging in sexual activity. The schools, which already require a health credit, Thomson said during the committee hearing, would incorporate the education during the students’ required health class. The educational training would require students to learn such things as that an individual who is passed out, unable to speak or who says “no” is not providing affirmative consent to sexual activity. Jess Clark, director of prevention for New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, said during the hearing that he taught affirmative consent for 10 years across northern New Mexico schools and that hearing a teacher explain affirmative consent in the classroom can be the “first move to access support” for a sexual assault survivor.
With federal funding cuts expected by the next fiscal year, New Mexico sexual assault programming is considering how the shortage could impact the future. The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission receives $4 million in recurring funding from the state to provide money to local sexual assault services. This year, the commission and the New Mexico Coalition for Sexual Assault Programs asked for $5 million in additional funding from the Legislature to fill gaps in services, improve salaries and prepare for the anticipated loss in federal dollars. But, the coalition did not receive all the money it asked for from the New Mexico legislature. In addition to the recurring $4 million, the legislature appropriated about $3.8 million in funding.
The New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs announced its support for Affirmative Consent legislation and the need for $5 million in funding on Monday. State Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring HB 44, Affirmative Consent Policies in Schools. Alexandria Taylor, deputy director of New Mexico Sexual Assault Programs, said in a press conference the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that New Mexico ranks seventh in the nation for sexual assault and rape based on reported crimes. Taylor said one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual violence prior to their 18th birthday in New Mexico. She said two-thirds never report the crime but seek sexual assault services.