How does consent work?
When you’re engaging in sexual activity, consent is about communication. And it should happen every time for every type of activity. Consenting to one activity, one time, does not mean someone gives consent for other activities or for the same activity on other occasions.
For example, agreeing to kiss someone doesn’t give that person permission to remove your clothes. Having sex with someone in the past doesn’t give that person permission to have sex with you again in the future.
It’s important to discuss boundaries and expectations with your partner prior to engaging in any sexual behavior.
You can change your mind at any time.
You can withdraw consent at any point if you feel uncomfortable. One way to do this is to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with this activity and wish to stop.
Withdrawing consent can sometimes be challenging or difficult to do verbally, so non-verbal cues can also be used to convey this.
The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.
Enthusiastic consent can look like this:
- Asking permission before you change the type or degree of sexual activity with phrases like “Is this OK?”
- Confirming that there is reciprocal interest before initiating any physical touch.
- Letting your partner know that you can stop at any time.
- Periodically checking in with your partner, such as asking “Is this still okay?”
- Providing positive feedback when you’re comfortable with an activity.
- Explicitly agreeing to certain activities, either by saying “yes” or another affirmative statement, like “I’m open to trying.”
Consent does NOT look like this:
- Refusing to acknowledge “no”
- A partner who is disengaged, nonresponsive, or visibly upset
- Assuming that wearing certain clothes, flirting, or kissing is an invitation for anything more
- Someone being under the legal age of consent, as defined by the state. California age of consent is 18 years of age.
- Someone being incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol Pressuring someone into sexual activity by using fear or intimidation
- Assuming you have permission to engage in a sexual act because you’ve done it in the past
Consent Laws California
“Consent” is defined to mean positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to the exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved. California Penal Code § 261.6.
Consent cannot be procured through inducing fear in the victim. California Penal Code § 266c.
Does the definition require "freely given consent" or "affirmative consent"?
Yes. California Penal Code § 261.6.
“Consent” shall be defined to mean positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to an exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved.
At what age is a person able to consent?
18 years old. California Penal Code § 261.5.
Reporting to Law Enforcement
The decision to report to law enforcement is entirely yours. Some survivors say that reporting and seeking justice helped them recover and regain a sense of control over their lives. Understanding how to report and learning more about the experience can take away some of the unknowns and help you feel more prepared.
How do I report sexual assault?
You have several options for reporting sexual assault:
- Call 911. If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. Help will come to you, wherever you are.
- Contact the local police department. Call Porterville Police (559-782-7400) or Tulare Sheriff's Department (559-782-9650. You can also contact PC Safety & Security (559-791-2440) to report a sexual assault and for free resources.
- Visit a medical center. If you are being treated for injuries resulting from sexual assault, tell a medical professional that you wish to report the crime. You can also choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam. To find an appropriate local health facility that is prepared to care for survivors, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673).
To learn more about the options in your area, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673). You’ll be connected to a staff member from a local sexual assault service provider who will walk you through the process of getting help and reporting to law enforcement at your own pace. In most areas, there are specific law enforcement officers who are trained to interact with sexual assault survivors. Service providers can connect you to these officers, and might also send a trained advocate to accompany you through the reporting process.
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