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Consent is the term used when two partners agree to engage in a sexual activity of any kind. Anything that happens without consent is sexual assault. There are three parts to consent:

  1. Equality – Both people in the relationship must be on equal footing and of sound mind and body. This means that consent cannot occur between an authority figure that manipulates or tricks someone into sleeping with them, even if the other person agrees. (You cannot truly give consent if your boss threatens to fire you for saying no.) This also means that one party cannot be drunk, high, injured, or have a mental disability which the other partner might take advantage of.
  2. A specific activity – Consent is only given for a specific activity. If a partner agrees to make out with his/her boyfriend/girlfriend that does not mean that consent is extended to any other sexual activities that might follow after making out. It is important to understand that consent needs to be given by both parties for each activity he/she engages in.
  3. At the moment – You can only give consent for what you are doing at the time. Consenting to a kiss now does not mean consenting to a kiss later. Consent can also be changed at any time. If something makes one partner feel uncomfortable, they have the right to stop that activity, even if they had previously agreed to participate.

Remember, consent is between equal partners for a specific activity at the given moment. Consent is a clear understanding of what's being asked for and agreed upon. Consent is freely given with no coercion by either party. Consent is never assumed and consent can be taken back at any time.  Anything less than an enthusiastic “yes!” is a “no” and is not consent.

Consent and the Law

The age of consent in South Carolina is 16 years old. It is considered statutory rape if an adolescent under the age of 16 has sexual intercourse with an individual 19 years of age or older. However, it is legal for a 14 year old to give consent for sexual intercourse if the partner is 18 years of age or younger. This is referred to as the Romeo Clause. Regardless of age, any sexual act that is not consensual is considered sexual assault.

Consent cannot legally be given by someone who is intoxicated. Perpetrators can receive up to 30 years in prison for sexually assaulting someone after giving him or her a controlled or intoxicating substance, such as alcohol or a “date rape” drug. If a perpetrator sexually assaults someone despite knowing that the victim is mentally defective or incapacitated and/or physically helpless, they may receive a prison sentence of up to ten years. (This could mean the victims has a physical or mental disability, or is drunk, high, or passed out. Anyone not of sound mind or body – for any reason – is unable to give consent.)

Submitting to coercion, especially of an aggravated nature, is not consent. If a person threatens to use force or violence to overcome the victim, and the victim has reason to believe that the assailant has the ability to carry out that threat, then he or she may comply with the assailant’s demands out of fear. The assailant, if convicted, may receive up to 20 years in prison for using aggravated coercion. If the perpetrator uses emotional or non-violent threats to manipulate the victim into submitting to a sexual act, this is considered coercion and a perpetrator can receive up to ten years in prison.

A person can receive up to 30 years in prison for forcing a victim to submit to sexual battery (vaginal, anal, and oral sexual intercourse, or any intrusion - such as a touch - of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body) in the context of kidnapping, forcible confinement, robbery, burglary, extortion, or a similar offense.