Affirmative Consent 

Person holding their hand in front of their face to signal

Consent is not effectively given if it results from the use of force, threats, intimidation, or if it is from someone who is incapacitated. 

Force is the use of physical violence or imposing on someone physically to gain sexual access.
Threats exist where a reasonable person would have been compelled by the words or actions of another to give permission to sexual contact they would not otherwise have given. For example, threats to kill or harm someone, kill or harm themselves, or to kill or harm someone for whom a person cares constitute threats.
Intimidation occurs when someone uses physical presence to menace another, although no physical contact occurs, or where knowledge of prior violent behavior by an assailant, coupled with menacing behavior, places someone in fear as an implied threat.
Incapacitation may result from alcohol or other drug use, unconsciousness, or other factors. The use of alcohol or drugs, in and of itself does not render a person incapacitated. Incapacitation is a state beyond drunkenness or intoxication. The impact of alcohol and drugs varies from person to person. Incapacitation is a state where a person cannot make a rational, reasonable decision because they lack the capacity to give affirmative consent (to understand the who, what, when, where, why or how of sexual interaction). Incapacity can also result from illness, sleep, mental disability and other circumstances. Engaging in sexual activity with a person whom you know to be mentally or physically incapacitated, or reasonably should know to be incapacitated, violates this policy.

University Affirmative Consent Standard

The following are part of the affirmative consent standard at the university:

  • A person who does not want to consent to sex is not required to resist. 
  • Consent to some forms of sexual activity does not automatically imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. 
  • Silence, previous sexual relationships, or the existence of a current relationship do not imply consent. 
  • Consent cannot be implied by attire or inferred from the giving or acceptance of gifts, money, or other items. 
  • Consent to sexual activity may be withdrawn at any time, as long as the withdrawal is communicated clearly. 
  • Withdrawal of consent can be manifested through conduct and need not be a verbal withdrawal of consent. 
  • In order to give effective consent, the person giving consent must be of legal age under Colorado law for the purposes of determining whether there was a sexual assault. 
  • A respondent’s intoxication resulting from intentional use of alcohol/drugs will not function as a defense to engaging in sexual activity without an individual’s consent. 

"If you're still struggling with consent, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you're making them a cup of tea."

Copyright ©2015 Emmeline May and Blue Seat Studios


Sexual Violence Prevention & Risk Reduction Strategies

By recognizing precursors that may lead to dangerous situations, like seeing a drunk person being aggressively pursued at a party or witnessing concerning behavior that has the potential to escalate, violence can be prevented. Prevention can include: implementing evidence-based risk reduction strategies and self-protection measures, normalizing and encouraging active bystander intervention, and promoting prevention education campaigns that positively challenge social norms to eliminate and reduce the risk of harm. We believe everyone benefits from prevention education.


Sexual Violence is Preventable

When we find ourselves in situations where we witness troubling and potentially harmful behavior, we have the choice to either interrupt the problematic behavior or remain complacent and allow the situation to escalate. At CU Denver | CU Anschutz, it is our responsibility to take care of one another when we witness acts of violence. As a community, we must work proactively to stop sexual violence before it occurs.

Here are some ways that you can help prevent sexual violence:

  • Find a buddy. If you’re going out to a party or gathering, go with someone/people you know and trust. Look out for one another and plan to stay together (buddy system). If plans change, be sure everyone knows about the new plan. Never leave someone behind in an unfamiliar situation or with unfamiliar people, especially if they are intoxicated.
  • Trust your gut. If something feels weird or wrong, it probably is. Trust your instincts and listen to your gut when you feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Plan ahead of time with your buddy and have a code word/phrase, sign, or text emoji that signals "get me out of here” so you can get help. It is okay to say things like I’m not feeling well, I have to go let my dog out, or I have a test to study for in order to remove yourself from an unsafe situation.
  • Be aware if alcohol is involved. Most folks assume date-rape drugs, like roofies or GHB, are the most common drugs used to facilitate sexual assaults when alcohol is involved; however,  alcohol by itself is the most commonly used drug to facilitate sexual assault. At parties, it is common for perpetrators to take advantage of high-proof alcoholic drinks that are mixed with sweet punch or juice to increase the likelihood of intoxication. Perpetrators of sexual assault may encourage alcohol consumption or target victims who are intoxicated. The use of alcohol or drugs to “loosen” someone up for sex is never okay. So, when in doubt, throw it out. Be sure to check-in with your buddy if you start to feel unwell (i.e., blurry vision, difficulty standing, etc.) or feel like you’ve had too much to drink. If you see someone who may have had too much to drink, see if you can provide any assistance to get them home safely i.e., take them home yourself, find their buddy/friend group, call them a Lyft, etc. Regardless of how you may be able to assist, it is critical to prevent the person from being isolated at all costs; perpetrators do not like witnesses. By preventing isolation, you can have a huge impact in keeping someone safe.
  • Signals and body language matter. Let’s compare communicating consent to a traffic light. Being attentive to signals on the road are just as important as being attentive to your partner during sexual interactions; not only for your safety, but for the safety of everyone around you. Instead of waiting for the light to turn red in order to come to a full stop or driving faster to pass through a yellow light before it turns red, the light MUST turn green before you drive forward, period. In other words, unless you have obtained consent from your partner, which includes clear, unambiguous, and voluntary signals (via words and actions that are mutually agreed upon), you DO NOT have consent, and therefore, you should not engage in any form of sexual activity. If someone is saying things like, maybe, or I’m not sure, or let’s slow down, this indicates that you are approaching a yellow light. This means you need to pause and slow down because this person is feeling uncomfortable. Consent can be withdrawn at any time, and you MUST have a green light to move forward. Remember, the absence of a “no” is NOT a “yes” and obtaining consent is required regardless of your relationship status. Constantly check-in: it is your responsibility to listen to someone’s boundaries. Just like traffic lights, consent signals are not optional.
  • Be an effective bystander. If you see someone in a situation that could be harmful or has the potential to escalate, you have the power to intervene; anyone can be a bystander. In particular, bystanders are important when a perpetrator is targeting someone because of their level of intoxication, or if someone has been intentionally drugged in an attempt to facilitate sexual assault. Folks who are incapacitated do not have the ability to give consent or advocate for themselves. You can choose not to remain on standby and make yourself less susceptible to social influences by: (1) understanding the bystander effect (how it manifests and shows up every day for you personally); and (2) by educating yourself on safety tactics that you are comfortable with to navigate these situations, so you are able to intervene and build a supportive and safe environment.  


NOTE*: Content in above sections, “Sexual Violence Prevention and Risk Reduction Strategies” and “Sexual Violence is Preventable,” was adapted from the Phoenix Center of Auraria | Anschutz, CU Boulder’s Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance, CU Denver | CU Anschutz Annual Clery Report, CSU’s Women and Gender Advocacy Center, and CU Denver’s Women and Gender Center.