Consent is knowing, voluntary and clear permission by word or action, by all participants to a sexual activity. Since individuals may experience the same interaction in different ways, it is the responsibility of each party to make certain that the other has consented before engaging in the activity. For consent to be valid, there must be a clear expression in words or actions that the other individual consented to that specific sexual conduct.
- A person who is incapacitated due to sleep, alcohol, or drugs cannot consent
- Consent cannot be given when force or coercion was used to gain sexual access
- Consent to some sexual contact (such as kissing or fondling) cannot be presumed to be consent for other sexual activity (such as intercourse)
- Past consent to engage in sexual activity cannot be presumed to be consent to engage in sexual activity in the future
- Silence or the absence of resistance alone is not consent
- A person can withdraw consent at any time during sexual activity
- No person who is underage can ever consent to sexual activity of any kind
The existence of consent is based on the totality of the circumstances, including the context in which the alleged incident occurred and any similar previous patterns that may be evidenced.
Myth: Once I have consent from an individual, it lasts forever.
Fact: Consent to some sexual contact (such as kissing or fondling) cannot be presumed to be consent for other sexual activity (such as intercourse). Past consent to engage in sexual activity cannot be presumed to be consent to engage in sexual activity in the future.
Myth: It is OK if the individual is asleep, they won’t mind.
Fact: A person cannot consent if he or she is unable to understand what is happening or is disoriented, helpless, asleep, or unconscious for any reason, including due to alcohol or other drugs. An individual who engages in sexual activity when the individual knows, or should know, that the other person is physically or mentally incapacitated has violated this policy. It is not an excuse that the individual respondent of sexual misconduct was intoxicated and, therefore, did not realize the incapacity of the other.
It is sexual exploitation to administer alcohol or drugs (such as “date rape drugs” to another person without his or her knowledge or consent).
Myth: The victim must have “asked for it” by being seductive, careless, drunk, high, etc.
Fact: No one asks to be abused, injured, or humiliated. This line of thought blames the victim for what happened instead of the perpetrator who chose to commit the crime. Individuals of all ages, all genders, and all walks of life, have been targets of sexual assault. Not one of them “caused” their assailant to commit a crime against them.
Myth: Most perpetrators are strangers to their victims.
Fact: Most rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows: a neighbor, friend, acquaintance, co-worker, classmate, spouse, partner, or ex-partner.
Myth: It is okay to pressure or talk someone into sexual activity.
Fact: No, this falls into the category of coercion. Coercion is a tactic used to intimidate trick of force someone to have sex with him or her without physical force.