- Coercion is a tactic used by perpetrators to intimidate, trick or force someone to have sex with him/her without physical force.
- Coercion is an issue of power and control.
- A perpetrator who uses coercive tactics knows that his or her victim neither wants nor enjoys this sexual interaction.
- Assailants use many forms of coercion, threats, and manipulation to rape including alcohol and drugs. Alcohol, Rohypnol, and other drugs are often used to incapacitate victims.
- Men who have committed sexual assault also frequently report getting their victim drunk as a way of making it easier to talk or force him or her into having sex (Abbey, McAuslan, and Ross, 1998).
- Although the media has labeled drugs such as Rohypnol and GHB as the date-rape drugs of the present, these are only two of the many drugs used to incapacitate a victim. Of the 22 substances used in drug-facilitated rapes, alcohol is the most common. (LeBeau, M., 1999).
- Examples of coercive statements:
“If you really loved me, you’d have sex with me.”
“I didn’t think you were such a prude.”
“But we’ve had sex before.”
“If you don’t have sex with me, I’ll find someone who will.”
“I’ll tell everyone that you’re gay if you don’t have sex with me.”
“I’ll spread rumors about you if you don’t have sex with me.”
“But you’ve been flirting with me the whole night.”
The following are some sample scenarios dealing with consent and coercion (Sokolow, 2004):
- Todd meets up with Amy at a party at 11:00pm and brings her at least 10 drinks over the course of three hours. Then, at 2:00am, just after Amy throws up, he walks her back to her room and the two of them engage in sexual intercourse. Does Todd have consent?
No. He fed Amy 10 drinks over three hours, knew she threw up just before sex, and should not have engaged in sexual activity with someone in that condition. Todd had enough information that he should have known that Amy was not in great condition because he gave her the drinks and knew that she was physically ill just before sex. Todd should be found responsible for sexual assault.
- Sarah and Bill meet at a party. They spend the evening dancing and getting to know each other. Bill convinces Sarah to come up to his room. For the next three hours, Bill uses every line he can think of to convince Sarah to have sex with him, but she refuses. Finally, it seems to Bill that her resolve is weakening. He convinces her to give him a “hand job.” Sarah would never have done it if Bill hadn’t been so pushy. He feels that he successfully seduced her, and that she wanted to do it all along, but was playing shy and hard to get. Why else would she have come up to his room alone after the party? Did Bill have consent?
No. Bill coerced Sarah into performing unwanted sexual touching upon him. Where sexual activity is coerced, it is forced. Consent is not effective when forced. Sex without consent is sexual assault. Bill should be found responsible for sexual assault.
- When Luke and David first met, their relationship was tumultuous. At first, David didn’t want to have sex with Luke because he felt like their friends might find out. Luke kept trying to convince him. He implied that if David didn’t sleep with him, he would break up with him. David finally gave in, and had sex with Luke. Did Luke have consent?
No. David did not consent to Luke of his own free will. Whenever a threat is used to make someone consent, it is an invalid consent because it is forced. David consented not because he wanted to have sex with Luke, but because he feared that he would break up with him. Luke should be found responsible for sexual assault.
- Theo is a junior and Tameka is a sophomore. Theo comes to Tameka’s dorm room with some mutual friends to watch a movie. After the movie, everyone leaves and Theo and Tameka are alone. They hit it off and begin to make out. Theo verbally expresses his desire to have sex with Tameka. Tameka, who was abused by a babysitter when she was five and has not had any sexual relations since, is shocked at how quickly things are progressing. As Theo takes her by the wrist over to the bed, lays her down, undresses her, and begins to have intercourse with her, Tameka has a severe flashback to her childhood trauma. She wants to tell Theo to stop, but cannot. Tameka is stiff and unresponsive during the intercourse. Does Theo have consent?
No. It is the duty of the sexual initiator, Theo, to make sure that he has mutually understandable consent to engage in sex. Though consent need not be verbal, it is the clearest form of consent. Here, Theo had no verbal or non-verbal mutually understandable indication from Tameka that she consented to sexual intercourse. Of course, wherever possible, students should attempt to be as clear as possible as to whether or not sexual contact is desired, but students must be aware that for psychological reasons, or because of alcohol or drug use, your partner may not be in a position to provide as clear an indication as possible. Theo should be found responsible for sexual assault.