Consenting to sex

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What The Law Says – Your Questions Answered.

This section answers some questions about what the law says on consenting to sex. Specifically, it deals with questions about situations when you might feel unsure about whether you’ve agreed to sex or when you feel something is wrong but you’re not sure about it. If this information sheet doesn’t answer your specific question, do give Galop a call in confidence to talk about your own situation. Contact Galop on 020 7704 2040.

This resource has been compiled with assistance from Pink Law and School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London: Breanne Becker, Frances Ridout, Gabriella Denlew, Julie Pinborough, Karl Laird, Michael Southern-Augustine.

What Does Consent Mean?

In law, consent means giving your agreement or ‘saying yes’ to something, in this case sex. The law says that consent is something active. It means freely choosing to say ‘yes’.

If you don’t agree, then you don’t give your consent. If you are threatened, frightened, drugged, coerced or asleep then you can’t give your consent freely.

In law, we all have a responsibility to make sure our sexual partners are agreeing to have sex. Sometimes we’re not sure if the other person is saying ‘yes’ or we misunderstand each other, misread the signs or feel awkward about dealing with consent in the heat of the moment. It is important that all of us make sure our sexual partners are consenting to sex and that all of us are giving our consent freely.

So, what do all of us need to know to make sure the sex we have is equal, safe and positive for all of us? This information sheet will give you some information and answer some of the questions people often ask us at Galop but do give us a call in confidence if you want more information or support (Tel: 020 7704 2040).

What is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault means being made to take part in any sexual activity or being touched in a sexual way without your agreement. Remember, the law says your agreement must be given freely for it to count.It’s not always easy to know if you’ve experienced sexual assault or violence. Most people are not attacked by strangers on a street at night, although this does happen. Most people are attacked by someone they know, someone they trust and someone they’re hoping to have a good time with. Sometimes it’s your partner or someone you fancy who you’ve met online or at a club or through your friends.

Sometimes things start out OK but just go beyond what you’re comfortable with. The other person doesn’t listen to you and doesn’t stop, even if you to want them to. You can feel instinctively that something is wrong but too intimidated, powerless, alone or unsure to know how to get yourself to a safe place. Sometimes you feel confused and are not sure if you’ve been assaulted. Maybe drink and drugs were involved or you’re unsure what saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ means, or what your rights are.

Remember, consent means your freely given agreement to a sexual act or activity. You do not have to be touched for a sexual offence to be committed and you do not have to shout ‘stop’. If you are tricked, persuaded, forced or frightened into any activity which is sexual or for the sexual pleasure of the person forcing you to do it, without your consent, this is called sexual assault in law. This makes it a crime.

It can be devastating to be the victim of sexual assault and violence. It can happen to anyone, whatever your gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity or lifestyle. If it has happened to you, you can contact Galop in confidence to get support and think through your options.

Questions about…

About What Consent Means

Meeting Partners

Consent & Chemsex

Consent and Relationships

Getting Help

If you feel something wrong or bad has happened to you, or you’ve experienced sexual violence or assault or you’re not sure but worried, then talk to Galop. Galop provides a free, confidential and independent service to all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across London who have experienced sexual assault, abuse or violence, however or whenever it happened.

Galop has a specialist Sexual Abuse Caseworker who offers in-depth and on-going advocacy, listening and support in an informed, non-judgemental way as people come to terms with what they’ve experienced and deal with whatever issues it raises for them and their lives. Galop’s service is based on the values of inclusion and empowerment and aims to be personal, accessible and actively trans inclusive. Galop caseworkers can also help you report to the police if you want to (anonymously or not) and find the right counselling, housing, health or other support that you need.

If you have questions about the law or think that you might need legal advice Galop can refer you to Pink Law. Pink Law can provide free legal advice for the LGBT community. For more information contact Galop.
Contact Galop on 020 7704 2040
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