Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity or contact that you do not consent to. Sexual assault can happen through physical force or threats of force or if the attacker gave the victim drugs or alcohol as part of the assault. Sexual assault includes rape and sexual coercion. In the United States, one in three women has experienced some type of sexual violence. If you have been sexually assaulted, it is not your fault, regardless of the circumstances.
Consent is a clear “yes” to sexual activity. Not saying “no” does not mean you have given consent. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault or rape.
Your consent means:
- You know and understand what is going on (you are not unconscious, blacked out, asleep, underage, or have an intellectual disability).
- You know what you want to do.
- You are able to say what you want to do or don’t want to do.
- You are aware that you are giving consent (and are not impaired by alcohol or drugs).
Sometimes you cannot give legal consent to sexual activity or contact — for example, if you are:
- Threatened, forced, coerced, or manipulated into agreeing
- Not physically able to (you are drunk, high, drugged, passed out, or asleep)
- Not mentally able to (due to illness or disability)
- Under the age of legal consent, which varies by state
- Consent is an ongoing process, not a one-time question. If you consent to sexual activity, you can change your mind and choose to stop at any time, even after sexual activity has started.
- Past consent does not mean future consent. Giving consent in the past to sexual activity does not mean your past consent applies now or in the future.
- Saying “yes” to a sexual activity is not consent for all types of sexual activity. If you consent to sexual activity, it is only for types of sexual activities that you are comfortable with at that time with that partner. For example, giving consent for kissing does not mean you are giving consent for someone to remove your clothes.