Cases such as an incident in North Carolina have brought the subject of consent into the spotlight this year. It’s important to know what consent is, what the laws say and what you can do if you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault.
What is consent?
Consent means “actively agreeing to be sexual with someone,” and any sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or rape. There are five basic components of consent: It should be freely given, enthusiastic, specific, informed and reversible.
What do the laws say?
The laws regarding consent, sexual assault and rape vary nationwide. But a person cannot give legal consent if he or she is coerced, threatened, forced or manipulated; is not physically or mentally able to give consent; or is considered a minor.
It does not matter what relation the perpetrator is to the victim; a person can be sexually assaulted by a partner or spouse. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), only 28 percent of rapes are committed by a stranger.
What to do next?
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, it can be very difficult to make the decision to go to the police or to the hospital. Break the Cycle offers advice to victims and informs them on where they can go for help and what to expect.
The statute of limitations varies from state to state, so it’s important to talk to someone who is familiar with the laws and can help the victim know his or her options. RAINN provides this support through its National Sexual Assault Hotline and rape crisis centers around the country.