What is Sexual Assault?

If you or loved one have been impacted by sexual violence and would like to learn more about your options, please call our hotline at 972-641-7273.

How old do you have to be to consent to sexual activity?

Each state sets an “age of consent,” the minimum age required to legally consent to sexual activity. People below this age are considered children and cannot legally agree to have sex. In other words, even if the child or teenager says “yes,” the law says “no.” In Texas, the age of consent is 17, but this can vary depending on the age difference between the participants. It’s up to you to make sure your partner is old enough to legally take part. Because this can be both a complicated question and answer, it is important to call us to find out more about the laws in our state.

What if one or both of us was under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

Alcohol and drugs are not an excuse – or an alibi. States define who has the mental and legal capacity to consent. You have to be awake, lucid, and able to communicate in order to consent. Those with diminished capacity — including people who have been drugged or are unconscious — do not have the legal ability to agree to have sex. Ingesting such a quantity of any substance that it affects your decision making process is not advisable for a number of health related reasons. We encourage you to call us and find out more about the laws in our state.

What if I said yes, but didn’t want to? –or- I thought ‘no’, but didn’t say it. Is that considered consent?

While it is best to communicate your needs and boundaries whenever possible, sometimes it isn’t safe to resist, physically or verbally. It depends on the circumstances. If this is the case, we would ask that you consider the following questions: Did someone use physical force (of any kind) to make you have sexual contact with her/him? Did someone threaten you to make you have sexual contact with her/him? Were you afraid of the consequences of saying ‘No’? Were you scared for your life or safety? If fear was in the room, then there was no consent. It doesn’t matter if your partner thinks you meant yes, or if you’ve already started having sex – you have the right to change your mind about participating in sexual activity at any time. No one has the right to control your body but you.

I was asleep or unconscious when it happened – does that mean it wasn’t assault?

If you were asleep or unconscious, then you could not give consent. You have to be awake, lucid, and able to communicate in order to consent.

We started to have consensual sex, then I changed my mind but she/he wouldn’t stop. Does that mean it wasn’t assault?

It does not matter if you have had sex with that person many times before, if this was the first time, or even if you have started sexual activity and you change your mind. You have the right to change your mind about participating in sexual activity at any time. No one has the right to control your body but you. If you don’t want to have sex, your partner must stop.

I didn’t resist physically – does that mean it wasn’t assault?

People respond to assault in different ways. Just because you didn’t resist physically doesn’t mean it wasn’t assault – in fact, a substantial number of victims do not resist the attacker in any way. Tonic immobility (TI), a well-known involuntary, reflexive response to fear-inducing stimuli, may aid in explaining the paralysis and “freezing” of many rape victims. During times of trauma, the brain goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. You did what you had to do to survive. You are alive, and that is what matters.

I used to date or have some kind of intimate relationship with the person who assaulted me – does that mean it wasn’t assault?

Sexual assault can occur when the offender and the victim have a preexisting relationship (sometimes referred to as ”date rape” or “acquaintance rape”), or even when the offender is a victim’s spouse or partner. It does not matter whether the other person is an ex-lover or a complete stranger, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex in the past. The presence or absence of consent determines sexual assault, not the relationship between the offender and the victim.

I don’t remember the assault – does that mean it isn’t assault? Is there anything that can be done if I don’t remember what happened?

Just because you don’t remember being assaulted doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen and that it wasn’t sexual assault. Memory loss can result from the ingestion of GHB and other  drugs, and from excessive alcohol consumption. It also does not necessarily mean the case cannot be investigated or prosecuted. If you wake up and believe you may have been drugged and assaulted, we encourage you to call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. Some drugs disappear from the body quickly, and time is an important factor.

I identify as male, and I think what happened to me may have been sexual assault.

Men can be victims of sexual violence. Your feelings may be the same as those of a female sexual assault survivor (guilt, powerlessness, concern regarding your safety), and you may also have some concerns unique to your gender identity, including your sexuality, masculinity, reporting to law enforcement, how to tell others, and how to find resources and support. You need to know that strong or weak, outgoing or withdrawn, homosexual, heterosexual, or somewhere in between, male, female, between or outside the gender binary, old or young, you have done nothing that justifies being raped. We encourage you to call our hotline to explore your options as a survivor.