Consent, Coercion, and Incapacitation

All members of the University community should be familiar with the concepts a of consent, coercion and incapacitation as they relate to interpersonal violence (including sexual violence) on campus.

Consent - Voluntary, intentional agreement to engage in a particular sexual activity. Consent is an on-going process throughout a sexual encounter and may be revoked at any time.

Coercion, force, or threat of either (direct or implied) invalidates consent

Incapacitation invalidates consent (including incapacitation due to alcohol or other drugs)

Past consent does not imply future consent

Consent to engage in sexual activity with one person does not imply consent to engage in sexual activity with another

Consent to one sexual activity does not imply consent to another

Silence or an absence of resistance does not imply consent

North Carolina laws indicate someone under the age of 16 cannot give consent to someone over the legal age of 18, absent a legally valid marriage or court order;

Consent cannot be given by mentally disabled persons or physically incapacitated persons;

Once an individual says “no” or makes any other verbal or non-verbal indication they want a behavior to stop, the activity must stop immediately. Ignoring objections or otherwise failing to immediately stop the activity constitutes sexual misconduct.

Elon University strongly encourages students to follow best practices for obtaining consent. While consent may involve verbal and non-verbal communication, requesting verbal affirmation is the best way to ensure clear understanding of expectations and boundaries.

Though consensual sexual activity can occur between two people who are drinking alcohol, Elon University cautions students to ensure their partner is fully aware of their own behaviors and of the situation as it progresses. Students who choose to initiate sexual activity with someone who has consumed impairing substances increase their risk of perpetrating sexual misconduct.

Coercion – Words or actions used to pressure, manipulate, isolate, trick or intimidate a person into engaging in unwanted sexual activity.

Examples of coercion include threatening self-harm statements such as, “If you don’t have sex with me, I will hurt myself” or “I will drive you home only after you have sex with me,” or threats of social ostracism.

Unlike seduction, coercion involves unreasonable and unwanted pressure to engage in sexual activity.  Coercive statements may involve criticism or tactics such as questioning someone’s sexuality or sexual orientation.  Students who witness someone attempting to coerce or isolate another person are encouraged to intervene or seek assistance immediately.

Incapacitation - A state in which someone cannot make rational, reasonable decisions because they lack the capacity to give knowing consent.  Incapacitation may be the result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, physical or psychological conditions or mental disability.

Incapacitation may or may not be aligned with the amount of alcohol or drugs someone has consumed. Someone who is incapacitated could be throwing up, blackout, high, hallucinating, stumbling or slurring words. Medication, lack of sleep, heightened emotional state as well as other physiological conditions can increase the effect of impairing substances. Thus, even a person with a low blood alcohol concentration may be incapacitated. Knowing how much alcohol your partner has consumed is an important part of understanding if they are able to consent, but is not the sole factor in determining incapacitation.

Someone who is able to give consent should be able to understand the “who, what, when, where, why or how” of their sexual interaction. If there is any question about someone’s capability to give knowing consent, stop the interaction. Students who witness someone attempting to engage in sexual activity with another person who may be incapacitated are encouraged to intervene or seek assistance immediately

Refer to  D. Respect (Social Policies) section of the Student Handbook for or a list of honor code policy charges and sanctions  

Research and Interpersonal Violence

One in five women will experience sexual assault in college1 with 9 out of every 10 victims knowing their offender2 .One in thirty-three men will experience rape in their lifetime3, 4-6% of college men perpetrate rape on a college campus4. Of this 4-6%, 2/3 are repeat offenders. Relationship violence is prevalent in college relationships with 25% of college students reporting experiencing relationship violence during college.5 Emotional, sexual and physical violence are commonly reported by victims of relationship violence in college. 43% of dating college women report experience abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.6 Women ages 18 – 24 are at the highest risk of stalking7 and 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime8.

1. “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” April 2014

2. Fisher, B.S., Cullen, F.T., & Turner, M.G. (2000). The Sexual Victimization of College Women. National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

3. National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey. 1998.

4. Lisak, David and Miller, Paul M. “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists.”

5. Relationship Violence Among Female and Male Undergraduate College Students Forke, Christina M and Myers, Rachel K.

6. 2011 College Sating Violence and Abuse Poll,

7. Baum, Catalano & Rand. (2009). Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report: Stalking Victimization in the

United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. Available at

8. 13 Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. (1998). “Stalking in America.” National Institute for Justice.

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