The Catholic University of America
What is Consent?

 

CUA defines consent as informed, freely given, mutually understandable words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in sexual activity. Effective consent may never be obtained when there is a threat of force or violence, or any other form of coercion or intimidation. A current or previous dating or sexual relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent, and consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent cannot be obtained from a minor, someone who is mentally disabled, or someone who is unable to understand or who cannot communicate a lack of consent. This includes someone who is incapicitated due to drugs, alcohol, or some other condition.  Silence or lack of active resistance does not imply consent.  Voluntary intoxication is not an excuse for failure to obtain consent. 
 

Consent should be:

 
  • A voluntary, informed, mutual agreement: consent indicates willingness to participate in sexual activity
  • An active agreement: consent cannot be coerced
  • A process, ongoing communication: consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity

Consent is not:

  • The absence of “no”
  • Silence
  • Implied or assumed
  • Based on a current or previous dating relationship
  • If someone says no repeatedly and finally has been made to feel as if they must says yes
  • If someone uses their position of power or authority to coerce manipulate someone into saying yes

In what circumstances can a person not give consent?

  • When the person is incapacitated or unconscious as a result of alcohol or drug use
  • When the person is a minor or mentally disabled
  • When the person is unconscious or asleep

 

What is Incapacitation?

Incapacitation means the inability, temporarily or permanently, to give consent, because an individual is mentally and/or physically helpless, asleep, unconscious, or unaware that sexual activity is occurring. The impact of alcohol and drugs and medications will vary from person to person. Warning signs that a person may be approaching incapacitation may include, but are not limited to, vomiting, incoherent speech, and difficulty walking or standing up. The perspective of a sober, reasonable person in the position of the respondent will be the basis for determining whether a respondent should have been aware that the complainant was incapacitated and therefore unable to consent.

 

To read the full definitions of consent and incapacitation, click here