What is Consent and Why is it Important?

‘Consent’ has grown to become an important buzzword in today’s society, with a lot of people questioning what it really means. The idea of consent is mostly applied to sexual assault cases, where the court will decide whether or not a defendant is guilty based on whether their victims have given consent.

It’s therefore extremely important to know about what is consent in general, and the specific rules that apply in the state you reside in.

What Is Consent?

Consent is essentially the act of agreeing, voluntarily, to an act. You may consider this as a simple concept. It’s just a question of if somebody said ‘yes’ or ‘no’, right?

Not quite. What happens if someone provides consent under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if they are too young to understand what they are even agreeing to? Would this still be considered voluntary?

These are the exact arguments that make proving or disproving consent a legal hurdle. The typical requirements for consenting to something is as follows:

  • The individual is of age, conscious and fully aware of what they are agreeing to
  • They expressly mention (through words and/ or actions) that they would want to engage in an activity
  • They give consent for every act performed

The court will rule that a person has not given consent if the following scenarios occur:

  • The individual has not reached the age of consent (this will be considered statutory rape)
  • They do not have enough information about the activities they are agreeing to, and therefore have not given informed consent (mostly in situations where they are too young to be seen as appropriately knowledgeable)
  • They are unconscious or sleeping
  • They are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • They didn’t communicate consent by way of words or actions
  • They consented to only one activity or only agreed in the past
  • Consent was withdrawn at any given point

What Is the Age of Consent?

The age of consent differs according to the state you are in. In Texas, for instance, the age of consent is 17, but in Washington it is 16. Most of the time, it ranges between 16-18 years old, and signifies that this is the age when individuals can have a mature enough knowledge of sexual acts to truly consent to them.

Why Is Consent Important?

You may not consider it important to know about consent. Surely these scenarios only occur in rare cases, and that you never have to worry about it? While that may be true, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Knowing about consent means that relationships will grow to centre around fostering communication and prioritizing honesty. Creating a suitable and healthy relationship means that both sides must reach an agreement on consent, and how this will play out in day-to-day life.

Without consent, a sexual act – even when the two individuals are a couple – can become an act of sexual violence that falls under:

  • Sexual harassment, which refers to unwelcome sexual advances
  • Sexual assault, which defines sexual acts that an individual has not consented to

How to Prevent Sexual Violence

Knowing about what consent means and how important it is will also allow you to discover how you can prevent instances of sexual violence from occurring in your community. Now that you have the knowledge of what a sexual practice must include, you can actively promote a better understanding of consent.

The key to prevention is to keep yourself and the people around you informed. When you take the time to learn more now about consent and the laws surrounding it, you can pass on the message and ensure a higher degree of safety in your community.

What to Do If You Are a Victim of Sexual Assault

If you have been a victim of any unwanted sexual activity, these are the steps you can take:

  • You can get medical help and advice
  • You can access counseling services or talk to someone about what happened
  • You can report the case to the police and have a foreign specimen inspection (to provide evidence of the sexual act)

Not everyone will cope with sexual assault the same way, but the above steps resemble some of the options available for you. Some people can also choose to remain silent and not seek additional help.

When a sexual assault case goes to court, the question of consent will be an important one, and you may have to testify or provide a written statement supporting your version of events. This may be too painful for some people, but others may choose this option to prevent the same thing from occurring with the same perpetrator.

A tip is to approach attorneys who are knowledgeable about sexual assault to find out your options, and to seek an ideal solution to tackling the effects of the event.

The Importance of Consent

Consent determines the difference between a respectful sexual act and unwarranted sexual violence.

Overall, consent refers to a person agreeing to a sexual act at all given points. A person cannot provide consent if they have not reached the age of consent, if they are unconscious, or if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It is important for every individual to learn about what constitutes consent in different states, and how the agreement of all individuals to conduct sexual acts is instrumental in preventing harm. This will be key in fostering healthy relationships and in preventing legal disputes or extensive mental distress.

Did you find this article helpful? Check out the rest of our blog for more legal information.

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