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Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Consent to any sexual act or prior consensual sexual activity between or with any party does not necessarily constitute consent to any other sexual act. Consent is required regardless of whether the person initiating the act is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Consent may be initially given, but withdrawn at any time. Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated, which occurs when an individual lacks the ability to knowingly choose to participate in sexual activity. Incapacitation may be caused by the lack of consciousness or being asleep, being involuntarily restrained, or if an individual otherwise cannot consent. Depending on the degree of intoxication, someone who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other intoxicants may be incapacitated and therefore unable to consent. Consent cannot be given when it is the result of any coercion, intimidation, force, or threat of harm. When consent is withdrawn or can no longer be given, sexual activity must stop. Syracuse University Sexual and Relationship Violence Resource Guide for Students.


According to Article 130 of the NYS Penal Law consent is absent under the following circumstances:

    • FORCIBLE COMPULSION means to intentionally compel by the use of physical force; or by a threat, express or implied, which places a person in fear of immediate death or physical injury to himself or herself [or another person] or in fear that he or she [or another person] will immediately be kidnapped.
    • PHYSICALLY HELPLESS means that a person is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act
    • MENTALLY DISABLED means that a person suffers from a mental disease or defect which renders him or her incapable of appraising the nature of his or her conduct.
    • MENTALLY INCAPACITATED means that a person is rendered temporarily incapable of appraising or controlling his or her conduct owing to the influence of a narcotic or intoxicating substance administered to him or her without his or her consent, or to any other act committed upon him without his or her consent.

COMMUNICATING CONSENT (adapted from Love is Respect Org):

Verbal communication prior to engaging in sex helps to clarify consent. However potentially awkward it may seem, talking about your own and your partner's sexual desires, needs, and limitations provide a basis for a positive experience. Some worry talking about consent will be awkward or that it will ruin the mood, but in reality, the mood is much more positive when both partners can freely communicate what they want. Here are some tips on verbally communicating consent:

    • talk about what terms like “hooking up” or “going all the way” mean to each partner.
    • Say things like: “Are you comfortable?” “Is this okay?” “Do you want to go further?”
      • Ask if it’s okay to take the next step and don’t just assume that they are comfortable with it.

Get Consent every time

It’s not ok to assume that once someone consents to an activity, it means they are consenting to it anytime in the future as well. Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, nobody is ever obligated to give consent just because they have done so in the past. A person can decide to stop an activity at any time, even if they agreed to it earlier.


Consider that the use of alcohol or drugs may seriously interfere with the participants' judgment about whether consent has been sought and given.


The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim. Each state and University/College has its own legal definition and criminal code/student conduct code, and thus definitions of acts that constitute sexual assault vary by state/institution.


Sexual assault is any actual or attempted sexual activity without consent including, but not limited to: sexual intercourse or sexual touching committed with coercion, threat, or intimidation, with or without physical force; exhibitionism or sexual language of a threatening nature by a person(s) known or unknown to the victim. Forcible touching, a form of sexual assault, which is defined as intentionally and for no legitimate purpose forcibly touching the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person or for gratifying sexual desires. Intoxication of the accused cannot be used as a defense to an alleged incident involving sexual assault. Syracuse University Sexual and Relationship Violence Resource Guide for Students.


Rape, which is defined as sexual intercourse without consent, committed with or without physical force, coercion, threat, or intimidation, actual or implied, by a person(s) known or unknown to the victim. Sexual intercourse can involve anal, oral, or vaginal penetration, no matter how slight. Syracuse University Sexual and Relationship Violence Resource Guide for Students.