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Sexual Assault and Rape

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Terms and Concepts in Sexual Assault

Consent

Consent is the conscious and considered agreement to voluntarily engage in sexual activity with another. Under certain conditions, consent is considered to be denied regardless of any actions on the part of the victim. Those conditions include force, fear of great harm, threats with real or alleged weapons, or the use or threat of physical injury.

People who are mentally compromised, intoxicated, or under a certain age are considered by the law incapable of giving consent, even if they appear to be consenting. These laws may vary by state.

When fear or intimidation is used, it is not necessary for a victim to resist or say "no" to establish that sexual assault has taken place. Intimidation of any sort invalidates any legal defense based upon the idea that the victim consented. Nonconsent is implied in all cases of intimidation.

If you begin sexual intimacy, you must use extra care at all times to be certain that the person to whom you are making sexual advances is of sound mind and consenting to whatever acts are taking place at all times during the contact.

Nonconsent

People who are compromised (intoxicated, below a certain age, mentally incompetent, or in an altered state of consciousness) are considered by the law to be incapable of consenting, whether they appear to be consenting or not.

If you are starting sexual contact, you must be very careful to determine if any of these compromising conditions exist. If you have even the slightest doubt about the mental state of the proposed sexual partner, you should not start sexual activity, and you should make every effort to protect the compromised person.

Intoxication and sexual assault

Intoxication is involved in many accusations of sexual assault.

Intoxication affects memory and consciousness. Lower levels of intoxication can lead to brief loss of memory for specific events. Higher levels can lead to blackouts where people appear to be awake and participating but do not remember what happened. Extreme levels can lead to complete states of unconsciousness (passing out), where the unconscious person can be taken advantage of without any participation, and the victim has no ability to resist sexual assault at all.

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