What is Consent?


Consent is about communication and respect.

Consent is agreement or permission expressed through affirmative, voluntary words or actions that are mutually understandable to all parties involved, to engage in a specific sexual act at a specific time:

  • Consent can be withdrawn at any time, as long as it is clearly communicated.
  • Consent cannot be coerced or compelled by force, threat, deception or intimidation.
  • Consent cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated, as defined below.
  • Consent cannot be assumed based on silence, the absence of “no” or “stop,” the existence of a prior or current relationship, or prior sexual activity.

What it means to be incapacitated

A person is incapable of consent if they are unable to understand the facts, nature, extent, or implications of the situation due to drugs, alcohol, a mental disability, being asleep or unconscious, or based on their age (pursuant to Indiana law). With respect to alcohol and drugs, intoxication and/or impairment are not not presumptively equivalent to incapacitation.

Consent does not exist when the individual initiating sexual activity knew or should have known of the other person’s incapacitation.

Alcohol and consent

Here are some signs that a person may not be able to understand the facts, nature, extent, or implications of a situation due to the use of alcohol and/or drugs and may no longer be able to make a clear decision about giving consent:

  • If a person is stumbling or falling down
  • If a person cannot stand or walk on their own
  • If a person’s speech is slurred or they are not communicating clearly
  • If a person cannot focus their eyes or is confused about what is happening around them
  • If a person has urinated, defecated, or vomited on themselves or around them
  • If a person is sleeping or unconscious

Remember, being drunk is not a free pass. If you are drunk and you perform a sexual act on another drunk person, you are accountable for your behavior. The person initiating the sexual act is responsible for getting consent.

Indiana Lifeline Law

If you or someone else is in trouble, call 911, even if you are intoxicated. Under the Indiana Lifeline Law, minors are protected from legal consequences during an alcohol-related and/or substance-related emergency. So make the call. A friend’s life may depend on it.