What is Consent?

Consent is knowing, voluntary, and clear permission, through word or action, to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity or contact. Silence or lack of resistance alone does not constitute consent.  Consent must be ongoing, and it may be withdrawn at any time.  Consent to one form of sexual activity or contact does not imply consent to others, nor does past consent imply present or future consent.  Consent to engage in sexual activity or contact with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity or contact with another person. 

Consent cannot result from the use of coercion, intimidation, force, or threats.  Consent cannot be obtained from an individual who is incapable of giving consent because the person:   

  • Is under the legal age to give consent (16 years of age in Washington); or
  • Has a mental, intellectual, or physical disability that renders them incapable of giving consent; or
  • Is otherwise incapacitated (as defined below), including through the consumption of alcohol or drugs.

Incapacitation is a state in which an individual is unable to make informed, rational decisions because they lack the capacity to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of a situation or interaction. Individuals cannot give consent if they cannot understand what is happening, or if they are disoriented, helpless, asleep, or unconscious for any reason.  That applies even if alcohol or drugs were voluntarily consumed. 

Individuals who engage in sexual activity or contact who know or should have known that the other party is incapacitated are engaging in sexual misconduct.  Physical indicators of incapacitation may include slurred speech, unsteady gait or stumbling, impaired coordination, unfocused or bloodshot eyes, vomiting, unresponsiveness, or, outrageous or unusual behavior. 

[Under Washington law, consent means that at the time of sexual intercourse or sexual contact there are actual words or conduct indicating freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact. RCW 9A.44.010(7).   For purposes of determining whether a violation of the Policy occurred, the University’s definition of consent will be used, not the state law definition.]”



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