It took me 4 years to write my first book, Carnal Abuse by Deceit. I published it in 2013. That means I began the process of trying to straighten out society’s understanding and laws on rape ten years ago. In those ten years, I’ve probably seen every definition of assent, acquiescence and consent that exists in the English language, right, wrong, and in between.
And I’ve recognized that society has a knee jerk reaction to considering non-violent sexual assaults as “rape.” I’ve learned not to split hairs over semantics; particularly because sexual assaults that are non-violent should be considered a lesser offense than violent sexual assaults. But all sexual assaults, whether violent or non-violent, should be covered by penal code because every victim who is sexually assaulted is defiled, whether or not violence was used against them.
Except for the misunderstandings that lump assent, consent, and acquiescence all together as synonyms – which they’re not – you’ll see that assent is a superficial type of agreement. Anyone who nods their head and says “yes” is assenting.
In 1946, an American military tribunal conducted military, criminal proceedings against 23 German medical professionals for their crimes against the human race. They had cooperated in or conducted ghoulish experiments using live humans during World War II. The Nuremberg trials, as they were known, gave voice to Nuremberg Code which guides medical experiments throughout the US. Nuremberg Code identifies that even a child, who has not yet reached the age of reason, can assent. Simply saying “yes” is assenting,
Nuremberg Code also tells us that saying yes when you have all the facts, are capable of reason, and are not being pressured, is “consenting.” Nuremberg Code requires the subject of a medical experiment to “consent.” If that subject is a child, their agreement could only be considered as “assent.” In order to conduct such an experiment, the child would have to sign an “assent” form. The parent or legal guardian would sign a “consent” form.
When a person acquiesces, they are assenting. But not everyone who assents is acquiescing. They could be agreeing but not because of fear. Acquiescence is agreement under duress, (fear/pressure.) You could also say that acquiescing is assenting under duress. But as Nuremberg Code points out, a person who consents must do so of their own free will. So a person who is pressured by fear to assent is not consenting. They are acquiescing.
In legal discussion regarding contracts, your assent can be nullified if the basic facts by which you assented were misrepresented (fraud). Although you agreed on the face of the information you were given, your assent is vitiated. Since you were not knowledgeable and informed, although you assented, you did not consent.
Why are these differences important?
We need for society to understand the difference between various types of agreement in crystal clear, simple terms. Our law makers are clear that we need “consent” to engage in sex. But they are clear as mud, and frequently incorrect, about what consent actually is.
In practice, from coast to coast, what is not expressly prohibited under the law is permissible: therefore, until we express that “nonconsensual sex is sexual assault, and consent is freely given, knowledgeable and informed agreement” in our laws, all instances in which a specific defiling act takes place without a specific penal code prohibition, that conduct cannot be prosecuted.
Several states say your “words and overt actions” are consent. Nope, if your words and overt actions result from force, duress, or deception, they are absolutely not consent. “No” means no, but “yes” only means yes when it’s not induced by force, duress, or deception. Only in rare cases do our laws uphold this principle.
As I’ve struggled with the process of motivating legislators to deal with this issue, I’ve seen that their interest in ignoring deception is deliberate. It’s far too consistent to be otherwise. Model Penal Code’s description, “Consent is ineffective if induced by force, duress or deception,” is too widely known for the omission of deception to be seen as simply an oversight or not relevant.
Our law makers have been truly callous to the harm a person suffers when they are tricked into sex, and they envision that these cases will “clog up our courts.” The fact that the victim’s self determination over their reproductive organs has been violated is irrelevant to them. The end result; however, is that their failure to identify what consent really means feeds the rape mentality that harms sexual assault victims all across the spectrum.
What can be done about it?
#MeToo and #TimesUp have identified that sexual assault is rampant, but even their efforts fail to reach to the core of the problem. Correctly defining consent in our laws would guide behavior and hold sexual predators, who prey on people for sexual contact in a myriad of ways, accountable.
Very few states correctly identify the relationship between assent and consent. Missouri is one of them. Missouri. 556.061 (14) states: “Assent does not constitute consent if (c.) It is induced by force, duress or deception.”
Why not? Because consent is freely given (not forced or coerced (duress)), knowledgeable and informed (not deceived) agreement. #FGKIA!
Yet when it came to prosecuting Mario Antoine, who tricked over 30 victims into sex, the SVU Prosecutor in Kansas City MO, Jill Icenhower, failed to prosecute.
Here’s Nuremberg Code:
“The person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge as to enable him (or her) to make an understanding and enlightened decision.”
The solution for holding all sexual assault offenders accountable is for our laws to recognize that all –
Nonconsensual sex is sexual assault – and
Consent is Freely Given, Knowledgeable and Informed Agreement – #FGKIA!
This isn’t rocket science. It’s just plain common sense! Call your legislator and demand that they enact this new, consent-based language to prohibit all forms of sexual assault into the laws of your state, today!
Help to adopt appropriate laws to conquer sexual assault today! Read Your Consent and send it to your legislators.
One thought on “Consent – Assent – Acquiescence: What’s the dif?”
Very informative and well-written article! Thanks Joyce!!
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