Mount Holyoke College believes that all sexual activity should be consensual. Consent to engage in any sexual activity must be knowing and voluntary; it must exist from the beginning to end of each instance of sexual activity and exist for each form of seual contact. Consent is demonstrated through mutually understandable words and/or actions that clearly indicate a willingness to engage freely in sexual activity. Consent is active, not passive. Any sexual act that occurs without consent may be considered a violation of this sexual assault policy.
Essential Elements of Effective Consent
- It is the responsibility of the initiator to obtain consent. All students are encouraged to communicate openly about what they do and do not want. Students may be held responsible for a violation of the Sexual Assault policy by NOT OBTAINING consent. A student will not be held responsible if they do not GIVE consent.
- If the sexual interaction is mutually initiated, both parties are equally responsible for getting and giving consent.
- All parties must demonstrate a clear and mutual understanding of the nature and scope of the act to which they are consenting.
- Consent must be a free choice. Consent cannot be obtained by force, coercion, threats, intimidation or pressuring, or by taking advantage of the incapacitation of another individual.
- Consent is not unlimited. Consent is required for each separate sexual activity (i.e. kissing, touching, penetration). Consent to one form of sexual contact does not constitute consent to all forms pf sexual contact, nor does consent to sexual activity with one person constitute consent to activity with any other person. Each participant in a sexual encounter must consent to each form of contact with each participant.
- Everyone has the right to change his or her mind and withdraw consent at any time. Individuals choosing to engage in sexual activity must evaluate consent in an ongoing manner and communicate clearly throughout all stages of sexual activity. Withdrawal of consent can be an expressed “no” or can be based on an outward demonstration that conveys that an individual is hesitant, confused, and uncertain or is no longer a mutual participant. Once consent is withdrawn, the sexual activity must cease immediately and all parties must obtain mutually expressed or clearly stated consent before continuing further sexual activity.
- The ability to give consent freely may also be jeopardized if the initiator is in a position of power over the student, such as a professor, employer, or functioning in a supervisory capacity.
- Silence is not consent. Consent cannot be inferred from silence, passivity, lack of resistance or lack of response. An individual who does not physically resist or verbally refuse sexual activity is not necessarily giving consent. Relying solely upon non-verbal communication can lead to a false conclusion as to whether consent was sought or given.