In many cases of sexual assault, the central issue is consent or the ability to give consent. Consent is when a person agrees or gives permission to another person to engage in certain sexual acts. Understanding consent is important for both parties.
What is consent?
- Consent is a knowing and voluntary verbal or non-verbal agreement between both parties to participate in each and every sexual act.
- Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other or all forms of sexual activity.
- Conduct will be considered "non-consensual" if no clear consent, verbal or non-verbal, is given.
- A person has the right to change his or her mind at any time. In other words, consent can be withdrawn at any point, as long as he or she clearly informs the other party that he or she is withdrawing.
- Taking drugs or consuming alcohol does not relieve the obligation to obtain consent.
- Clear Communication Words or actions must be used to establish consent. Only a comprehensible, unambiguous, positive and enthusiastic communication of consent for each sexual act qualifies as consent. The absence of no does not equal yes. Only YES means YES.
- Effective consent can be given by words or actions so long as the words or actions create a mutual understanding between both parties regarding the conditions of the sexual activity--ask, "do both of us understand and agree regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place?"
- When someone affirmatively demonstrates that (1) they do not want to have sex, (2) they want to stop any sort of the sexual acts, or (3) they do not want to go any further, the other party must stop completely. Continued pressure after that point can be coercive.
Consent in Relationships
- Current or past sexual relationships or current or past dating relationships are not sufficient grounds to constitute consent.
- Regardless of past experiences with other partners or your current partner, consent must be obtained.
- Consent can never be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. You have the right to say "no" and you have the right to change your mind any time.
By law, a person cannot give consent, even when he or she might verbally say so, when:
- The person is intoxicated or unconscious due to alcohol or drugs
- The person is physically or mentally disabled
- The person is asleep or "passed out".
- The person was coerced due to force, threat of force, or deception or when the person was beaten, threatened, isolated, or intimidated.