Sexual assault can happen to anyone and be perpetrated by anyone. The following are scenarios that illustrate the possible interactions that may “count” as sexual assault.**
Kelly and Andy meet at a party. They spend the evening dancing and getting to know each other. Kelly convinces Andy to come up to Kelly’s room. From 11:00pm until 3:00am, Kelly uses every line Kelly can think of to convince Andy to have sex, but Andy adamantly refuses. Kelly keeps at Andy, and begins to question Andy’s religious convictions, and accuses Andy of being “a prude.” Finally, it seems to Kelly that Andy’s resolve is weakening, and Kelly convinces Andy to touch Kelly’s genitals. Andy would never had done it but for Kelly’s incessant advances. Kelly feels that the seduction was successful and that Andy wanted to do it all along but was playing shy and hard to get. Why else would Andy have come up to Kelly’s room alone after the party? If Andy really didn’t want it, Andy could have left.
Kelly perpetrated sexual assault against Andy by using coercion to obtain sexual contact, pressuring Andy to an unreasonable level. Where sexual activity is coerced, it is forced. Consent is not valid when forced. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault.
Changing Your Mind “Counts”
Ryo and Casey are dating. Casey is uncertain about whether they should have sex, but Ryo is persuasive and finally obtains Casey’s voluntary agreement. As they engage in sex, Casey says “wait – stop – that hurts.” Ryo nonetheless continues for several more minutes, ignoring Casey. Afterwards, Casey is upset. Ryo apologizes, but says they were past the point of interruption.
Although Casey initially consented, that consent was withdrawn. At any point, if consent is withdrawn, any sexual contact beyond that point is sexual assault.
Uncertain Consent “Counts”
Sidney and Harper are dating. On several occasions they are physically intimate, but within limits set by Sidney, who is opposed to having sex at this stage of their relationship. One night, when they are being intimate within their mutually agreed upon boundaries, Harper begins to cross them. Sidney expresses concern, but Harper is encouraging, saying, “It will be okay just this once.” Sidney replies, “We shouldn’t do this,” but continues to touch Harper in an intimate way. As Harper initiates sex, Sidney says, “This is a bad idea,” and begins to cry, but embraces Harper and the two proceed to have sex.
Sydney’s initial consent was followed by serious doubts expressed to Harper. To Harper, Sydney complied to Harper’s desire to have sex as Sydney did not push Harper away or otherwise protest after embracing Harper. However, Sydney’s apparent consent likely involved too much uncertainty to be considered a voluntary agreement to have sexual intercourse, especially given Sidney’s longstanding prior refusal to engage in sex. Further, Sydney’s words and tears should have indicated a lack of consent to Harper, and Sydney’s embrace, although consent to a hug and further sexual contact between their bodies, does not clearly indicate consent to sexual intercourse. Sexual contact when consent is uncertain is sexual assault. Consent to one sexual act does not equal consent to any other sexual act, and without consent, sexual contact is sexual assault.
Absence of Resistance “Counts”
Devin and Ansley are engaging in a consensual sexual encounter. Devin begins to intensify the level of contact and moves quickly from touching and kissing to penetration with fingers. Ansley responds by pulling away slightly, moving Devin’s hands and saying, “Hey, hold on; I’m not sure.” Devin cooperates briefly but then intensifies the contact once more. Ansley inches backwards and then becomes still. Nonetheless, Devin has sex with Ansley.
Although consent was present between Devin and Ansley during their initial sexual contact, that consent was not sustained. Ansley’s absence of resistance, or having transitioned from active participation to stillness/freezing, does not indicate consent. Sexual contact without affirming participation on the part of both partners is sexual assault.
Consent to One Act But Not Another “Counts”
Morgan and Kai are friends who begin dancing and kissing at a party. They are both drunk, although not to the point of incapacitation. Together they decide to go to Kai’s room. They undress each other and begin touching each other. Morgan moves as if to engage in oral sex and looks up at Kai questioningly. Kai nods in agreement and Morgan proceeds. Then, without pausing to check for agreement, Kai begins to perform oral sex on Morgan, who lies still for a few minutes, then moves away, saying it is late and they should sleep.
There was initial agreement, and although Kai may have thought that Morgan had consented to reciprocal oral sex, Kai took no steps to obtain clear agreement. Kai’s responsibility as a sexual partner was to check in with Morgan and obtain consent for the specific act Kai wished to perform. Consent to one act of sexual contact does not equate to consent for another act. Sexual contact without consent to the specific contact is sexual assault.
Tyler and Jordan are both drinking heavily and both become incapacitated. While making their way back to Tyler’s room, they have trouble walking, stumble multiple times, and even exit the elevator on the wrong floor. Once in Tyler’s room, they begin to make out, touching each other’s buttocks and genitals through their clothes. They fall back on the bed and pass out within minutes. When Jordan wakes up an hour later, Tyler is on top of Jordan, naked from the waist down. Jordan shakes Tyler, who wakes up, clearly confused. Jordan asks Tyler where they are and says, “What happened?” Tyler’s eyes won’t focus; Tyler says a few words to Jordan that make no sense. Jordan shifts in bed and is now on top of Tyler. Tyler pulls Jordan close and the two kiss. Jordan reaches down and tries to pleasure Tyler but Jordan struggles and lacks the physical coordination to do so. Tyler pushes Jordan away and rolls off of the bed, vomiting on the floor. Both Jordan and Tyler pass out again.
Though this situation may seem complicated, in reality, both Tyler and Jordan have sexually assaulted one another. Consent does not exist when the victim is incapacitated. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. In this scenario, had a reasonable, conscious person been in Jordan’s shoes, they would have (or should have) known that after drinking heavily, having trouble walking, stumbling, and struggling to navigate surroundings, Tyler was too incapacitated to kiss or touch or be touched on the buttocks or genitals. The same is true for someone in Tyler’s shoes. After passing out, Jordan woke and became aware that Tyler had initiated sexual contact at some point by placing their naked genitals against Jordan’s clothed body without Jordan’s consent. Had a reasonable, conscious person been in Tyler’s place, they would have (or should have) known that Jordan, being incapacitated to the point of passing out, could not consent to sexual touching. When Jordan moves on top of Tyler, Jordan is now initiating non-consensual sexual contact with Tyler’s naked genitals. Then, when the two kiss, they have both initiated non-consensual contact due to their continued levels of incapacitation. When Jordan directly touches Tyler’s genitals, Jordan has again initiated non-consensual sexual contact. Incapacitated sexual contact is sexual assault, even when the perpetrator is also incapacitated.
**These scenarios are not drawn from actual complaints of sexual assault reported at UMKC as those cases are held in the strictest confidence, although it is likely that these scenarios may reflect incidents occurring to our students and employees in real life. The scenarios draw upon the extensive research literature on sexual assault. The names chosen for the scenarios are gender neutral to reflect the fact that sexual misconduct occurs in all gender configurations. The scenarios are concise and do not capture the complexities that may emerge during the formal complaint process, which is designed to provide a fair and thorough review of each complaint and thus includes independent fact finding, a formal hearing, and an appeal process. For more information on the process used by UMKC to address complaints of sexual assault, visit Resources & Information (link).