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Understanding Consent

Defining consent

‘Consent’ is an understandable exchange of affirmative actions or words that indicate an active, knowing, and voluntary agreement to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity. An action is “without that person’s consent” when it is inflicted upon a person who has not freely and actively given consent.

Consent is not freely given when it is in response to force, or threat of force, or when a person is incapacitated by the (voluntary or involuntary) use of drugs or alcohol, or when the person is otherwise physically helpless, and the person performing the act knows or should reasonably know that the other person is in such state, or under the legal age of consent (17 years in Illinois).

A person is not required to physically resist sexual conduct in order to show a lack of consent.  Past consent for sexual activity does not imply ongoing future consent. Therefore,

  • Consent is ongoing and continuous.
  • Consent cannot be given by a third party
  • Sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape.
  • Consent must be willing. The decision to have any type of sexual behavior must be free of force. Both partners must be free to make their own decision and have the option of whether to be intimate or not.
  • Force can be either physical or emotional. Examples of physical force include:
    • Kidnapping
    • Using weapons
    • Holding someone down
    • Taking advantage of someone when they are incapacitated due to drug or alcohol use.
    • Examples of emotional force include threats, peer pressure, blackmail, guilt, or coercion.
  • An individual who is incapacitated is unable to give consent to sexual contact. States of incapacitation include:
    • Sleep
    • Unconsciousness
    • Intermittent consciousness
    • Any other state where the individual is unaware that sexual contact is occurring.