Clark Anti-Violence Education Program

Consent Fully Defined

What is effective consent?

Effective consent is defined as a freely and affirmatively communicated willingness to participate in sexual activity, expressed either by words or clear, unambiguous actions. It is the responsibility of the initiator of the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the other person’s consent to engage in sexual activity. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent must be present throughout the sexual activity by all parties involved. Consent to one form of sexual activity cannot imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent may never be obtained through the use of force, coercion or intimidation, or if the victim is mentally or physically disabled or incapacitated, including through the use of drugs or alcohol.

It is the responsibility of the initiator of the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the other person’s consent to engage in sexual activity. Do not make assumptions about consent, about someone’s sexual availability, about whether they are attracted to you, about how far you can go, or about whether they are physically and mentally able to consent to you. Clearly communicate your intentions to your sexual partner and give your partner a chance to clearly relate his/her intentions to you.

Mixed messages from your partner are a clear indication that you should step back, defuse the sexual tension, and communicate better. Realize that your potential partner could be intimidated by you or fearful. You may have a power advantage because of your size, strength, and/or standing or reputation at the university. Do not abuse that power. Consent may never be obtained through the use of force, intimidation, or coercion. When someone makes clear to you that s/he does not want sex, that they want to stop, or that they do not want to go past a certain point of sexual interaction, continued pressure beyond that point can be coercive.

Consent cannot be assumed because of the existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved or due to the existence of a previous sexual relationship between the persons. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent. Consent must be present throughout the sexual activity by all parties involved. Consent to one form of sexual activity cannot imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. The perpetrator or victim’s use of alcohol or other drugs does not diminish the perpetrator’s responsibility.

Consent may never be given by minors (in Massachusetts, those not yet sixteen (16) years of age), those who are mentally disabled, or by one who is incapacitated as a result of alcohol or other drug consumption (voluntary and involuntary) or those who are unconscious, unaware, or otherwise physically helpless. A person who knows or should reasonably have known that another person is incapacitated may not engage in sexual activity with that person. Incapacitation means being in a state where a person lacks the capacity to appreciate the fact that the situation is sexual, or cannot appreciate (rationally and reasonably) the nature and/or extent of the situation.

A person’s state of incapacity is a subjective determination that will be made after the incident in light of all of the facts available because people reach incapacitation at different points and as a result of different stimuli. They also exhibit incapacity in different ways. The following factors bear on incapacity: body weight, height, and size; tolerance for alcohol and other drugs; amount and type of alcohol or other drugs consumed, and the mixture taken; amount of food intake prior to consumption; voluntariness of consumption; vomiting; propensity for blacking out (mentally or physically); and genetics.

Alcohol-related incapacity results from a level of alcohol ingestion that is more severe than impairment, being under the influence, drunkenness, or intoxication. It is less severe than alcohol poisoning or overdose, which may lead to coma or death. Evidence of incapacity may be detected from context clues, such as: slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol on breath, shaky equilibrium, vomiting, outrageous or unusual behavior; and/or unconsciousness.

This policy also covers someone whose incapacity results from mental disability, sleep, involuntary physical restraint, or from the taking of a so-called “date-rape” drug. Possession, use, and/or distribution of any of these substances, including Rohypnol, Ketomine, GHB, Burundanga, etc., is prohibited, and administering one of these drugs to another person for the purpose of inducing incapacity is a violation of this policy. More information on these drugs can be found at http://www.911rape.org. (From the Clark Student Code of Conduct).

Source: Clark University's Sexual Violence Policy