California Legal Team

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The Ethics Behind Sexual Consent

Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Sexual Harassment Lawyers Talk About Sexual Consent and Ethics

As any sexual harassment lawyer will tell you, consent is the difference between an office romance and a sexual harassment case. In fact, consent is a basic component of human relations. It allows for a wide range of conduct that would otherwise be considered illegal. Sexual harassment is just one such example. Sexual harassment lawyers will always ask you in which ways you may have consented to any advances made towards you. If it is discovered that you consented to any of the actions that you complain of as being uncomfortable and unwelcome sexual advances, such actions cannot be considered sexual harassment. It is useful in this regard to make use of the knowledge and resources of sexual harassment lawyers in order to successfully make your claim.

Here are some factors that might influence the validity of your consent:

Capable of Giving Consent
First of all, you must be legally capable of giving consent. This means that you must be of age, and you must have understood the nature of the conduct to which you were agreeing. This last requirement can be influenced by certain factors, such as mental illness or not being compos mentis due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Unwelcome advances, which took place at an office party, can therefore present quite a few problems. If during your drunken state you may have neglected to show your disinterest in your colleague’s sexual advances, it may be argued that you in fact consented to his or her behavior. However, it will need to be established to what degree you were intoxicated, as this will have an impact on whether or not your consent was legally valid.

Power Relations
Another factor to keep in mind is the power relations between the victim and the offender. It can be harder to reject an unwelcome sexual advance if you are in an inferior or more vulnerable position. This can be in regards to gender, age, or your position within the workplace. The court will take this into account when determining whether consent was freely and voluntarily given.

The Question of Tacit Consent
If your boss or employer behaves towards you in a certain way and you do not clearly tell him or her that it is inappropriate and unwelcome, have you tacitly consented to such behavior? That is, can your keeping silent be construed as a ‘yes’? The answer is a firm no. Consent to sexual behavior cannot be presumed. Only yes, whether by words or conduct, means yes. Furthermore consent can be withdrawn at any time and if you consent to a specific act it cannot be said that, by implication, you consented to another.

The law is very strict when it comes to consent with regards to sexual harassment. It is thus helpful to be aware of your rights and how to protect them. Do not be fooled by your harasser telling you that you agreed to certain behaviors when you did not or that you never made it clear that you were uncomfortable. If you are still uncertain, document the inappropriate conduct and consult a sexual harassment attorney.


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