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What is Consent?

Consent is a continual process by which partners each explicitly and mutually agree and give permission to sexual contact without force, coercion or threat of coercion. The need for consent is not measured by the type or degree of contact...consent should be a part of any sexual contact with your partner. The absence of consent makes rape or other violations a very serious possibility. For example, sexual foreplay does not imply consent to engage in intercourse or other forms of sex. If a person has not explicitly said, "Yes, I want to do this," then it is wrong to assume that consent has been given. When you aren't sure, ASK. If the answer is not clear, remember that ambivalence is an answer, too. It usually means, "I'm not ready yet, even if I might want to one day." It's OK to talk about that. Talking and listening will help you understand your partner better and help you both effectively communicate with each other.

When consent and the ability of a partner to ask for consent is present, each partner has the freedom to choose. Having this choice represents our mutual right to feel safe, increases the trust between two partners, and recognizes each person's autonomy and participation in the decision making. Being respectful enough to ask for consent also means being prepared to accept the answer. While we may be frustrated, embarrassed, disappointed, or uncomfortable when our partner is unsure about having sex, none of those emotions cause someone to control another person sexually. Most of us do not feel the need to overpower and control our partners sexually. Most of us respect our partners' right to say yes or no. Most of us do not want to harm our partners, but realize that the freedom to say "yes" is meaningful only if you are free to say "no."

Consent is...

  • Freely given
  • Mutually agreed upon
  • Consent is based on choice
  • Consent is active not passive
  • Consent is possible only when there is equal power
  • Giving in because of fear is NOT consent
  • Consent is NOT the same as cooperation
  • Deception or manipulation eliminates the possibility of consent
  • If you can't say "no" comfortably then "yes" has no meaning
  • If you are unwilling to accept "no" then "yes" has no meaning
  • Consent means to give permission by saying "yes"
  • Giggling, changing the subject, or squirming away does not say "yes" or a "no"
  • To give your permission you must be able to say "yes" or "no" without pressure

There are times when a person is not legally able to consent.

Consent Cannot Be Given If:

  • a person is incapacitated by any drug or intoxicant
  • a person has been purposely compelled by force, threat of force, or deception unaware that the act is being committed because they are unconscious
  • ability to consent or resist is obviously impaired because of mental or physical condition
  • a person is coerced by supervisory or disciplinary authority
  • under the legal age of consent, which is 16 in Georgia

What are Perpetrator Tactics?

A characteristic of perpetrators is that they ignore the feelings of the person they are with. Because sexual assault is an act of aggression, power, and anger, someone who is sexually violent tends to behave in ways that are intended to control others. Often they do things that are intended to "test" someone, to see how much they can get away with. Offenders often use behaviors to break down someone's defenses and make that person more vulnerable to being assaulted. This is especially true of those who rape people they know, which is the majority of rapists.

Sometimes people think that "date rape" is the result of miscommunication between a man and a woman or a "he said, she said case." However, if a man misinterprets a woman's friendliness as interest in sex, or thinks he's getting mixed messages, while he may be frustrated, embarrassed, or disappointed when he finds out that this was not her intent, this is not a cause of sexual assault. The normal response of most men to this sort of misunderstanding would be the same as with any other: to try and clear up the confusion; to get angry and leave; to ask, "why not?"; to apologize for misunderstanding. The normal response for most men is not to attack the person they've misunderstood. However, someone wanting to have power and control over someone sexually, would not see it as just a misunderstanding, but would in fact value their own feelings and desires over the victim's by ignoring the feelings, wishes, and rights of the victim. The need to control someone sexually against their will is what makes a rapist choose to rape.

3 Stages of Behavior

Many of these behaviors can occur over time or occur in one night. Some may seem like normal dating rituals, and may not necessarily lead to an assault. However, having an understanding of these strategies can be helpful. Keep in mind that there are no guarantees and this list of strategies is not meant to imply that if you just pay attention to these behaviors that you will be safe. We have no way of truly preventing sexual assault...only the perpetrator can DECIDE not to sexually assault someone.

Stage One: Intrusion

Intrusion is the strategy a rapist uses to "test" someone, to see what behaviors will "pass." They may try to cross someone's boundaries in various ways; by sitting or standing too closely, toughing the person in ways that make her/him uncomfortable and then ignoring the discomfort, or saying things that are inappropriate.

Stage Two: Desensitization

Desensitization is the tactic used by the rapist to get someone "accustomed" to sexually coercive behavior. During this stage the offender tries to make the person feel less sensitive to the intrusion by minimizing his/her reactions to the offensive behavior. A person may begin to question their feelings or feel that they are overreacting, and not recognize the assault for what it is.

Stage Three: Isolation

Isolation is removing someone physically from sources of safety and support, or convincing her that no one cares or will believe her. The person is often manipulated to the point where a quick and assertive response may be difficult or impossible.