Consent and Sexual Assault
Consent is when partners mutually agree to engage in sexual activity. Consent should be clearly communicated through verbal affirmation in order to understand and respect each other’s boundaries.
Consent cannot be given by people who are underage, incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious. Consent also cannot be given under intimidation or threat, or unequal power dynamics.
Sexual assault is a term used to refer to a wide range of assaults, including rape, attempted rape, sexual battery, incest, molestation, spousal rape, and statutory rape. It’s important to remember that sexual assault is NOT sex. It is a crime in which sex is used as a weapon. It is an act of hostility and aggression in order to control, dominate, humiliate, and degrade the victim. Sexual assault is an act of forced or coerced sexual contact or penetration when one person does not want to participate. Although there may have been sexual contact in the past this does not constitute ongoing consent. Consent can be withdrawn at any time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, sexual violence “refers to sexual activity when consent is not obtained or not given freely.” This violence is commonly committed by someone the survivor already knows. Sexual assault/abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, or ability. It is a widespread problem—1 in 3 women, 1 in 4 men, and 1 in 2 trans folks will experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
Regardless of the specific situation, sexual violence is never the survivor’s fault.
Every survivor has a different experience and response to the trauma they went through, and every reaction is completely normal and valid. Learn more about common questions survivors can have.