How not to be accused of sexual assault

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- We often see information on how not to be a victim of sexual assault. One of the things that I have received significant feedback on in the past months is the need for an article on how not to be accused of sexual assault.

The first thing to address is; is consent given? The Department of the Air Force Policies and Procedures for the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Assault states "Consent shall not be deemed or construed to mean the failure by the victim to offer physical resistance. Consent is not given when a person uses force, threat of force, coercion or when the victim is asleep, incapacitated or unconscious."

The most common question asked in regard to the "consent" explanation is the "incapacitated" portion. Alcohol is routinely involved in sexual assault scenarios. If someone has been drinking then it is not a sure thing that they can give consent due to intoxication ("incapacitated").

So, what does this mean in a social situation? How many drinks does someone have to consume to meet the "incapacitated" aspect of the policy? Their level of "incapacitation" is determined in court proceedings after charges have been made. They will evaluate the person's mental ability to the extent that the person was incapable of understanding the sexual act, its intended motive or result and its possible consequences.

Most people do not have the ability to independently determine if a person is incapacitated according to this definition. Standing in court defending yourself against criminal allegations is not a good time to evaluate this concept either. So, the logical action in that scenario is to not have sexual relations with that person until they are in a known state (not intoxicated).

I've been told the best way not to fall off a cliff is not to be looking over the edge. The best way not to be accused of sexual assault is to ensure consent is given. That means if the other person has been drinking and you have sexual relations with them in an intoxicated state; you are looking over the edge of the cliff.