What is consent?
Consent is when you give permission for something to happen. Consent is an important part of sex. A person’s consent to a sexual activity should be:
- not assumed
Consent to one activity or in one situation does not mean you automatically consent to a different activity or a different situation. When a sexual activity happens without consent, the law often considers it sexual assault.
What does Maine law say about consent and sexual assault?
Maine law considers some situations “gross sexual assault” because a person has not given legal consent. If a person engages in a sexual act because of physical force or the threat of physical force, it is sexual assault. The victim does not need to fight or resist. Even if the victim doesn’t fight back physically, it can still be sexual assault.
Sexual assault can also happen without physical threats. Maine law says sex based on any type of threat – physical or not – is sexual assault.
Maine law also says that some people cannot give legal consent because of a mental disability that affects their decision making.
A court may consider it sexual assault if a person:
- knew about (or should have known about) the disability, and
- had sex with them even though the victim could not understand:
- what was happening, or
- their right to stop consenting
There are also other situations that Maine law automatically defines as a sexual assault. Relationships where one person has power over the other can fall into this category. For example:
- authorities in jails
- authorities in hospitals
- teachers of children under 18
- parents or guardians of children under 18
- social workers
Maine law may consider sexual activity within these, and other similar relationships, sexual assault.
If you think you are a survivor of sexual assault, there are many resources in Maine and across the country that can help you. You can learn more about resources through the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault. You can also call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 1-800-871-7741.
Drugs/Alcohol and Consent
Alcohol and drugs can also affect your ability to give informed consent. If someone gives you enough drugs or alcohol that you cannot understand or control what is happening, you cannot give consent. Maine law says sexual activity in this situation is sexual assault.
Maine law also says that if you are unconscious or cannot physically resist the other person (due to alcohol or any other reason), you cannot consent to sexual activity. Sex in this situation is sexual assault.
Drinking alcohol or taking drugs does not always mean you cannot give legal consent. But, if you thought someone was giving you drugs or alcohol for a medical reason, any sexual activity may be considered sexual assault under Maine law. If you were under 16 years old and under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident, Maine law may consider the situation sexual assault.
What Civil Legal Steps Can I Take?
If you have been sexually assaulted, there are some civil legal steps you could take. This is different from a criminal court case.
Many people get Protection from Abuse or Protection from Harassment Orders. These court orders can help protect you from a dating partner, family or household member, or stalker. Protection from Abuse Orders can also protect you if someone is distributing private images of you.
- Learn more about PFA or PFH orders for survivors of sexual assault
- Learn more about Protection from Abuse Orders in general
If you have been abused by a spouse or the other parent of a shared child, you may want to consider Divorce or Parental Rights and Responsibilities. A Divorce Order can help set personal and financial boundaries when you are no longer married. This process may bring some closure, allowing survivors to move on from the former relationship.
A Parental Rights and Responsibilities order can legally decide who your kids live with or visit. It can also decide which parent gets to make big decisions about the children’s lives. Many survivors of sexual violence or domestic abuse find it helpful to have this structure outlined officially through the court.
- Learn more about Divorce and Parental Rights and Responsibilities in our step-by-step guide
- For more information about LGBTQ+ family law issues in general, read our LGBTQ Family Law Guide
Sexual violence can affect many parts of a survivor's life. Sexual assault might change your:
- housing needs
- ability to learn at school, or
- immigration process
You may be able to get legal help with these issues. If you need help with housing or other legal concerns in Maine, contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance or a local sexual assault agency(link is external). You can also call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 1-800-871-7741.