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What Does Consent Mean?

College sexual violence is a serious problem on U.S. campuses. According to a recent report from Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), approximately 1 in 9 college students nationwide have experienced rape or sexual assault. Sexual assault can occur through physical force, violence, or incapacitation of the victim.

When engaging in sexual activity, both parties are required to obtain consent. It is imperative that high school and college students have a clear understanding of the meaning of consent. In this article, you will find an overview of what is required to obtain consent from a sexual partner.

Know the Six Key Elements of Consent

Simply defined, consent is an unambiguous communication of agreement to engage in certain conduct. Getting consent is about far more than hearing the word “yes” or getting a “nod of approval.” Consent should always be clear, active, and specific. Here are six elements of consent:

  1. Clear and Unambiguous: With consent and sexual activity, there should not be a question. Consent must be clear and unambiguous. There should not be any confusion as to whether or not consent was actually given. If there is confusion, there may be no consent.
  2. Voluntary: A person cannot give consent to sexual intercourse or any other type of sexual activity while under duress. If it is not given in a fully voluntary manner, then it is not valid consent. If someone is placed under extreme pressure to agree to sexual activity, then they are not actually giving voluntary consent.
  3. Mutual: Consent works in both directions. Men and women are both required to obtain and provide consent to sexual activity. Each party may decline to give consent at any point in time during sexual activity.
  4. Coherent and Informed: Consent to sexual activity must be given by a person who is in a coherent state of mind. If they do not fully understand their actions, then they are not in a position to give consent. On college campuses, this element is often an issue because of alcohol or drugs. Consent while intoxicated is not possible; a person who is intoxicated cannot give consent if they are not making an informed choice. Remember, consent is about choice.
  5. Ongoing and Specific: Consent is not an “either/or” phenomenon for sexual activity. A person could give their consent for certain conduct (kissing) but decline consent for other conduct (intercourse). Consent should always be ongoing and specific.
  6. Reversible: Consent is reversible. You have the right to change your mind about sexual activity at any point in time. If a person changes their mind and withdraws consent, then their partner has a legal and moral obligation to stop. No means no—even if that ‘no’ comes after an initial ‘yes’. Consent can always be taken back.

Get Help From a Title IX Sexual Assault Attorney

Consent is an active and clear mutual agreement between the parties to participate in certain conduct. By definition, consent must be a voluntary choice made by each individual person. If you have any specific questions about the meaning of consent, an experienced Title IX sexual assault lawyer can help.

If you have any questions, please ask below!