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Kevin Carlson

Kevin Carlson

Wednesday, 08 May 2019 22:26

How to Lobby

Click to download

Tips on Meeting with Elected and Appointed Officials—

It’s Easier Than You Think!

Setting up and participating in meetings with an elected or appointed official is not difficult. In almost all cases, they will welcome meeting with people who can educate them and their staff about an issue. And the views you express can have a significant impact.

Issues important to our communities are on the front burner for state and local elected and appointed officials across the country. Those officials—legislators, governors, mayors, county and city councils, school boards, zoning and ABC boards—want to hear what we think about those issues.

We can all write letters, and we should certainly do that, but actually meeting with your elected or appointed officials can have a major impact. And this is something we all can do.

Monitoring Developing Issues

It is important to be aware of developing issues on which lobbying can be useful. Getting in for a lobby visit early in the legislative or administrative process is the best way to affect the outcome. Monitor your local press for new issues of concern to our communities. Also, legislatures and administrative agencies have web sites on which they often (but not always) identify issues they will be considering and give timetables for such consideration.

Monitoring & Participating in the Committee Process

Almost all legislative proposals are considered by a Committee before being voted on in the Congress or state legislature. The staff of the Committee (which may be different than the staffs of the individual legislators) will do the necessary research, prepare a draft of the legislative measure and brief the legislators who are assigned to be members of that Committee.

It is important to monitor the Committee process to identify new legislative proposals at an early stage. Most Committees—certainly all Committees of the U.S. Congress—have websites that identify proposals under consideration and set forth the schedules for Committee hearings, Committee meetings and Committee votes. NCSF can help you find the right Committee and point you to its website.

Meeting with Committee staffers early in their development of a proposed piece of legislation can be effective, particularly on issues relating to BDSM and other non-traditional sex practices. Staffers will generally know little about the real practice of BDSM or other non-traditional sex practices and are likely to have adverse preconceptions that are important to dispel. You should try to become a resource that provides information that is both helpful to the Committee staff, and that can have a significant influence on the legislation that they draft.

As the legislative process proceeds, it will become important to have lobby meetings with the legislators’ personal staffs and possibly with the legislators themselves. NCSF can provide guidance as to the timing of such contacts.

What is a Lobby Visit?

A lobby visit is a meeting where you tell your elected representative or appointed official what you think about a certain issue or bill. Whether it is a City Council Member or your Congressional Representative, as one of their constituents you can ask them to take action on an issue of legislation, or of government policy/practice.

You can easily find the office of your local and national elected officials in your area. Some Members of Congress have more than one office in their congressional district, and permanent staff members are usually available for you to meet with. State legislators and governors can be reached at the state capitol or in their local offices. Local officials are equally easy to contact.

Requesting Your Meeting

Make your request in writing and follow up with a call to the Appointment Secretary/Scheduler. Be prepared to meet first with the elected official’s staff. Remember that the official relies on the staff, both to educate the official about the issue and to make recommendations. Based on what happens at the staff meeting, you may or may not seek a further meeting with the elected official.

Suggest specific times and dates for your meeting. Let them know what issue or legislation you wish to discuss. Make sure they know that you are a constituent.

Prepare for Your Meeting

Contact the NCSF to help you decide on your talking points, and get information that you can leave with your elected official.

Decide who will attend the meeting. Bringing more than four or five people can be hard to manage.

Agree on talking points. Your goal is to make a strong case for your position, so don't disagree in the meeting. If a point is causing tension in the group, leave it out.

Plan your meeting keeping in mind that time is limited. Decide who will start the conversation, and which points each person will make. If possible, each person should focus on why this is important to them personally, in addition to the general talking points.

Decide what you want achieve. Do you want your elected official to vote for or against a bill? Do you want them to support your issue or oppose a restrictive ordinance? Ask them to do something specific.

During the Meeting

Be prompt and patient. Elected officials and their staff run on very tight schedules.

Keep it short and focused. You will have twenty minutes or less with a staff person, and as little as ten minutes if you meet with your elected official. Stick to your talking points.

Know your elected official's record on similar issues or legislation. Begin by thanking them for voting in support of your issues, and for taking the time to meet with you.

Leave only a few pages of information that contain your main points. Include your contact information, and offer to provide more detailed information on any points in which the official or staff expresses particular interest.

Provide concise personal and local examples of the impact of the legislation or issue. This is the most important thing you can do in a lobby visit.

You don't need all of the information on an issue. If you don't know the answer to a question, it is fine to tell the elected official that you will get that information. This gives you the chance to contact them again about the issue.

Set deadlines for a response. You sometimes won't get a definitive answer at the meeting. Ask when you should check back in to find out what your elected official intends to do about your request. If you need to get information to them, set a date for when this will happen.

After the Meeting

Right after the meeting, compare notes with everyone in your group to confirm what the elected official committed to do and what follow up information you committed to send.

One of you should promptly send a thank you letter for meeting with you. That letter can briefly summarize the main points you made in the meeting and can list any action items to be pursued further.

Follow up immediately with any requested materials and information.

If the elected official or staff member doesn't meet the deadline for action you agreed to during the meeting, ask him or her to set another deadline. Be persistent, polite, and flexible.

Let NCSF know what you learned during your meeting by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Meeting with your elected officials is the best way to demonstrate that there is a constituency for civil liberties in your district. It's easy to make a difference.

Lobbying is Fun & NCSF Can Help

NCSF regularly helps local groups and individuals to prepare for and engage in lobbying at the Federal, State and local levels. Almost without exception, participants in such lobbying have found it a productive and enjoyable experience. You will learn a lot and find that you can make a difference on issues important to all of us.


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March 2nd and 3rd, Portland, Oregon

Click to download the meeting packet

The NCSF Annual Coalition Partner Meeting is for representatives of the Coalition Partners and the NCSF Board and Staff members to come together to discuss the year-end reports on NCSF projects and programs, and to set goals for the coming year. The NCSF Board members are elected at the annual meeting, and the budget and financials are approved.

The NCSF Annual CP Meeting is open to all members of NCSF and its member organizations. The Annual Meeting will also be available via video conferencing. Please RSVP to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the details.

Thursday, 08 February 2018 21:15

NCSF Newsletter: 4th Quarter 2017

NCSF Newsletter
4th Quarter, 2017
Edited by Julian Wolf

In this Issue

Happy Birthday NCSF
NCSF Annual Meeting
NSEC Exhibit
House of Trei
NCSF Research Internship
Fight in 2018
NCSF Thanks!
Celebrating 20 Years of Successful Advocacy with NCSF!
Media Updates
Join us on Fetlife
Coalition Partners

Dark Odyssey Surrender 2017 1

Dark Odyssey Surrender 2017 celebrated NCSF's 20th Anniversary in December with NCSF Board Members, Coalition Partners, Supporting Members, volunteers and event producer for Dark Odyssey at the NCSF birthday reception at Surrender!

Dark Odyssey Surrender 2017 cake

NCSF is Coming to Atlanta for our 21st Anniversary Celebration!

Annual Coalition Partner Meeting
Friday March 9th 10 am - 6pm
@ Crowne Plaza Atlanta Airport, 1325 Virginia Avenue, Atlanta, GA

The NCSF Annual Coalition Partner Meeting is for representatives of the Coalition Partners and the NCSF Board and Staff members to come together to discuss the year-end reports on NCSF projects and programs, and to set goals for the coming year. The NCSF Board members are elected at the annual meeting, and the budget and financials are approved.

The NCSF Annual CP Meeting is open to all members of NCSF and its member organizations. The Annual CP Meeting will also be available via video conferencing. Please RSVP to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the details.

NCSF will be participating in events throughout the weekend in Atlanta:

Rope Bite at 1763 - Celebrate NCSF's 21st Birthday!

"Rope Bite @Nite" is a rope-centric event held the second Saturday of each month at 1763 from 8-2pm. The evening starts out with a class and demo focused on rope education and then evolves into the Decadence play party. NCSF Board Members and staff will bring a birthday cake to celebrate our 21st anniversary with Rope Bite members!

LLC, the Leadership Conference - Workshops and an Award!

NCSF is proud to be receiving the "Leadership in Action" Award at LLC which is designed to recognize the people who have contributed their skills, time and effort into sharing with and being supportive of our community. NCSF Board Members and Staff will be attending and participating in the Leadership Conference with 3 workshops planned. For those who want to attend LLC, go here to register and get a discounted hotel room rate:

Poly Atlanta - Consent Counts with NCSF!

This is a chance for the polyamory community in Atlanta to get together and discuss our experiences in a roundtable discussion. It is also an opportunity for newcomers to learn all about polyamory. March's topic of discussion will be Consent Counts with a representative from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. There will also be a bonus opportunity to discuss how to find a kink/poly-aware mental health professional with our very own Nickie Fuentes (facilitator of the Lilburn support group and Atlanta Poly sponsor).

For those who are interested in running for the Board of NCSF or volunteering, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NSEC exhibit with Dick and Judy

The NCSF exhibit table at the National Sex Ed Conference in Atlantic City, NJ, in December. Judy Guerin, Dick Cunningham and Susan Wright

Stay connected!

Join NCSF's email list to stay in the know. You can sign up to receive our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view or go to our website and fill in the "Get the NCSF Newsletter" box with your email

Joint Statement on Sex Addiction

Approximately a year after the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) position statement on sex addiction was published, three more professional organizations have joined the discussion regarding this topic. This is interesting timing, given the recent high-profile cases in the media.
These organizations: Center for Positive Sexuality (CPS), National Coalition for Sexual Freedom(NCSF), and The Alternative Sexualities Health Research Alliance (TASHRA) recently published a group position statement opposing the addiction model in relation to frequent sexual behavior and pornography viewing. These organizations cite AASECT's statement as one of the reasons for their joint statement, as well as citing many scientific studies that reject the addiction model in relation to these sexual behaviors. The American Psychiatric Association does not recognize sex or porn addiction as a diagnosis, and these organizations have followed up with their own statements on the issue.
There are many factors that could lead someone to engage in various sexual practices and or pornography viewing, and current assessments for the concepts of sex and porn addiction lack scientific rigor and validity. Furthermore, important cultural factors are not considered within a sex/porn addiction model.
This position statement also reports that the addiction model assumes that using sex or pornography as a coping mechanism is necessarily problematic, and maybe this is due to an overly conservative or religious view of sexuality, rather than a recognition that this may actually be maladaptive. In fact, as pointed out, studies show that diverse sexuality may actually be considered a positive means of coping.

Naughty Noel cake and postcards

Naughty Noel in Gettysburg celebrated NCSF's 20th Anniversary in December! Heather Gardner, Michelle Buhrman, JP Miller and Endra

Naughty noel group

Guest Blog: Protecting Your Privacy
By Benjamin Schenker
When using dating apps, I've often seen a question to the effect of "Would other people be shocked by something you own?" Personally, I don't know, but I am sure that I have some things that I'd rather people not see that I own.  In general, my friends are not rooting through my cupboards and closets.  However, there are situations where they could be!
One thing that people, especially younger people, might not consider is the possibility of an accident. Something bad could happen and you could wind up in the emergency room. Do you remember your mother chiding "Make sure that you wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident"?  Whether it be a car crash or an accident on the job, accidents happen.
The question is what would happen if you were in an accident and were incapacitated for a substantial period of time? Someone would have to make arrangements for bills to be paid while you're out of commission, and while it's possible that friends could be understanding about you not being able to pay, professional landlords, utility companies, student loan lenders, and credit card companies are unlikely to be forgiving.
When a person becomes incapacitated, people close to her might be able to file for "guardianship" during the incapacity. This means that someone closely related to you would petition the court to allow her or him to be the guardian over your person and/or your property. (See Md. Estates and Trusts Section sections 13-102 et seq; D.C. Code 21-2001 et. seq.) That would mean that they would have the power to pay your bills and handle your affairs; it also means that they would have significant access into your personal affairs.
A similar situation happens when a person dies without a will. A family member would petition to be the personal representative of the estate, and then would have access to personal accounts and personal property. (Md. Rule 6-101 et seq.; D.C. SCR-PD Rule 403 et seq.).
However, by acting ahead, you can control who these people will be.  Who do YOU want looking through your cupboards and bank accounts (and browser history!)?  The equivalent of clean underwear in an accident is to prepare in advance a durable power of attorney and a will (which, by the way, is a good idea to do for a variety of other reasons!).  You cannot plan to avoid accidents, but you can plan to ensure that your very religious aunt is not the one sorting through those battery-operated devices in your nightstand!
Addendum: These documents are not just important for protecting privacy, but they can be helpful for a variety of reasons. One of them could be to help same-sex couples. Even married couples can be subject to people who don't want to recognize their marriage (Kim Davis is a famous example of this). Maybe "religious freedom" laws can protect people who discriminate because people are married, but having these documents can prevent the discrimination. A power of attorney can be granted to anyone, so even if someone wants to discriminate because you are in a same-sex marriage, they won't be able to do so if you have a power of attorney (or, at least it would be more difficult).
Disclaimer: Nothing in this post is intended as legal advice or to create an attorney-client relationship. If you have any legal concerns, please contact an attorney qualified to practice law in your state or district.
For more information, go to:

House of Trei newsletter photo
1st Capital Finance/The House of Trei tabling for NCSF at Wicked Wonderland at 1763 in Atlanta!
House of Trei 1

NCSF Research Internship
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom ( is seeking a research intern for approximately 5 hours per week for 26 weeks to compile a selected bibliography of books and academic journal articles on kink, swinging, consensual non-monogamy, BDSM, and related consensual sexual variations.  Applicants must have 5-10 hours per week to devote to the work, an institutional affiliation or private resources to cope with academic publishing paywalls, and graduate or very advanced undergraduate training in human sexuality.   Familiarity with and interest in the subject matter is extremely helpful, but lifestyle participation is not a requirement.

NCSF is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in matters of age, race, gender, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or sexual identity, lifestyle or ability status provided none of these interfere with job performance.  This is an unpaid position, and caries no monetary compensation or insurance.  Applicants do not need to be members of NCSF, but affiliation with the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) or the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) is desirable.  Cooperation with the internship or practicum requirements of select accredited sexuality research, education, or clinical training programs is negotiable.  Upon completion, excellent assistance would entitle the applicant to junior authorship on the resource list which will be posted on the NCSF website, distributed through the AASECT AltSex Special Interest Group, and other venues.

Supervision of this position will be provided Russell J Stambaugh, PhD, DST, CSTS, the NCSF Kink Aware Professionals Advocate.   For more on Dr. Stambaugh, see his blog, Elephant in the Hot Tub: Kink in Context --

This is an excellent opportunity for anyone who needs to conduct a literature review on these topics as part of their academic training.

Applicants should send their resume to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by March 1, 2018.

Fight in 2018! An Interview With Our Volunteer Coordinator 
by Julian Wolf
Was one of your resolutions for 2018 making a difference? Current politics have you ready to stand up and fight for your freedom? Have extra time and a passion for serving your national community? We'd love to have you work with us! Our volunteer coordinator extraordinaire Keira joined me virtually to answer a few questions about how you can help the work of the NCSF actively this year.

Thanks for joining us! What sort of help does the NCSF need? Is it always sitting at tables?
Most of the volunteering is actually done via the internet. We are always looking for skilled volunteers for all sorts of projects. We tailor the project to the volunteer. The most common projects require creative skills like writing and graphic design, but we really do find something for everyone. Once we even asked someone to create coloring book pages for us!
Do you need experience in advocacy? What if you're new to swingers and/or kink community, should those folks wait to participate?
Again, the projects are tailored to the volunteer. You don't need any experience in advocacy, activism, or community. Just willingness and drive to volunteer.
How would one of our constituents go about offering to volunteer with the NCSF?
Our website has a volunteer questionnaire that you need to fill out in order to become a volunteer. The URL is
What keeps you volunteering?
I really enjoy the people I work with and I'm proud of the work I do.  Additionally, working with NCSF has really improved my self worth and helped me make many positive changes in my personal life
Anything else you'd like to share with us?
Volunteering for NCSF is done in as low stress a way as possible. So please don't be scared. It's really painless
Thank you so much for your work!

Keira has been actively volunteering with the NCSF since 2011 and joined the board in 2014. She was recently featured as a Poly Role Model. See her interview here or via our website at

You can reach Keira at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NCSF Thanks! 4th Quarter 2017
NCSF thanks Fetish Friday Indy for donating $2,500 raised at its a one-night celebration of art and alternative sexuality featuring DJs, live performances, and play spaces/furniture. All net proceeds from the event are donated to the NCSF.
NCSF thanks Dark Odyssey Surrender 2017 which raised a total of $2,238 for NCSF along with signing up 4 new Supporting Members and 1 Individual Member. An additional $4,476 was raised for our allies at the event.
Thank you to Jaiya with Find Your Path to Passion for donating $500 along with an additional donation of $545 to match the funds raised by the attendees at the Betty Dodson BodySex™ Retreat 2017 held in upstate New York in July.  
NCSF also thanks Jaiya, Inc. for donating $725 in October and $585 in December as part of their Coalition Partner fundraiser that is a percentage of their business for the month.
NCSF thanks Kink Fest: A Leather Fetish Expo for donating $1,300 in October!
Thank you to our Coalition Partner, The TES Association in New York City, for donating $960 to NCSF: $310 was raised in June/July by their members, and $650 to pay for the rental of the LGBT Center for our Consent Summit that was held on September 16th, 2017.
NCSF thanks FetLife, the Social Network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky Community, for donating $300 to the NCSF Foundation again this quarter!
Thank you to NLA-International for donating $150 to NCSF in December!
NCSF thanks Pittsburgh Bridge and the attendees of their Halloween party for donating $75 that was raised through a $25 "General Admission + $10 NCSF donation" option for entry. 

Incident Reporting & Response - 4th Quarter 2017
By Susan Wright
Director of IRR

NCSF's Incident Reporting & Response received 46 reports & requests for assistance from individuals, groups and businesses in July, August and September. The 1st quarter of 2017 we had 38 requests and the 2nd quarter we had 46 requests and the 3rd quarter we had 41 requests.
NCSF maintains the confidentiality of those who come to us for help. However, we balance that need with the need to report the services we are providing and to provide the community with a record of where the need is the greatest.
Here is a breakdown of the cases we dealt with in the 4th Quarter of 2017:
There were 19 requests for resources and information involving criminal law - similar to the 21 requests we received in the 3rd quarter.  14 of those requests came from people who reported an assault, sexual assault, harassment or vandalizing involving BDSM or non-monogamy. 4 people requested resources and referrals to attorneys or mediators to assist in defending themselves against a restraining order or accusations of assault, sexual assault or harassment.  1 person needed assistance with sex worker-related issues.
Child Custody
There were 5 requests for resources and information regarding child custody, half the number  reported in the 3rd quarter of 2017, but the same as reported in the 2nd quarter. 3 involved BDSM (1 with FetLife photos) and 2 involved non-monogamy.
14 groups asked for assistance, compared to 4 groups in the 3rd quarter and 11 groups in the 2ndquarter of 2017. 9 groups needed help dealing with consent incidents. 3 groups were harassed, exposed or defamed. 2 groups needed help with opening a business and obscenity laws.
5 requests, compared to 4 requests in the 3rd quarter: 3 people were threatened with/or outed. 1 person was defamed. 1 is filing to get back moneys owed.
3 professionals requested education on BDSM, consent and translation of educational resources.

Celebrating 20 Years of Successful Advocacy with NCSF!

20yearOver the next year, NCSF will be celebrating our 20th Anniversary around the country.

Join us! Please ask your group or event to hold a Birthday Party for NCSF to help support our programs and projects that are challenging discrimination against consenting adults.

These are a just a few of NCSF's accomplishments to celebrate:

Provided Incident Response assistance to thousands of people regarding child custody, job discrimination, criminal prosecutions, consent violations, venue licensing and enforcement issues

Gave over 1,000 media interviews to change media representations of BDSM and other non-traditional sex practices, and trained over 100 people and groups on how to talk to the media
Developed educational programs and resources for law enforcement, attorneys, therapists, medical personnel, anti-domestic violence advocates, universities, authors and our communities

Worked with the American Psychiatric Association to help change the DSM-5 criteria so that consensual BDSM is no longer categorized as a mental illness

Developed the Consent Counts Campaign to decriminalize consensual BDSM and is working with the American Law Institute on the Model Penal Code on Sexual Assault.

Filed Amicus Briefs in important legal cases so that consent is a defense

Maintained a Kink Aware Professional's resource database

Please help support NCSF! Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for help in producing and promoting your event.


Media Updates and Web Features

NCSF Media Updates are a sampling of recent stories printed in US newspapers, magazines, and selected websites containing significant mention of BDSM-leather-fetish, polyamory, or swing issues and topics. These stories may be positive, negative, accurate, inaccurate or anywhere in between.

Here's a sample of some of our recent featured stories:

Inside the Koreatown Dojo Dedicated to the Art of Japanese Rope Bondage from LA Weekly
Bisexual and Polyamorous: How My Pendulum Swings from Advocate
'The Ethical Slut': Inside America's Growing Acceptance of Polyamory from Rolling Stone

NCSF publishes the Updates to provide readers with a comprehensive look at what media outlets are writing about these topics and to urge everyone to make comments that dispute stereotypes about alternative sexuality. NCSF permits and encourages readers to forward these Updates where appropriate.

You can sign up to receive our emails This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or check our blog at our website here.

Representing on FetLife

Find the NCSF on the world's most popular free social network for the BDSM, Fetish & Kinky communities!

NCSF - National Coalition For Sexual Freedom News
NCSF Volunteers
Consent Counts

and members can even list the NCSF as a Fetish on their profiles!

Interested in a specific story or in writing an article?
email Julian: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download a PDF of this Statement

Dealing with Assault

The Consent Counts program was created to ensure that kinky people understand their rights and options when it comes to consent violations, and to decriminalize consensual BDSM in the U.S. courts. NCSF has a list of kink aware victim services that you can contact for help on our website: You can also find out more details about how to deal with assault and get the help you need from counselors, social services and law enforcement in NCSF’s booklet “In the Aftermath.” If you believe you have been unjustly accused of assault, you can consult “When the Levee Breaks.”

1. How do I decide if I should report what happened to the police?

Everyone’s view of justice does not look the same. Some victims want to hold their assailant accountable and the criminal justice system was created to do that. The justice system was also created to prevent an assailant from doing such things to other victims. Some victims don’t feel the consent violation is serious enough to be reported as a crime. Some victims don’t want to cause harm to their assailant which would come with filing a police report against them. Some victims are afraid of being outed. Some victims need counseling first to deal with the assault. Some victims who don’t report an assault later regret not doing so just as some who do file regret doing so. It’s an intensely personal decision that an alleged victim has to make with legal and/or therapeutic assistance.

2. Who can help me decide if I should report what happened to the police?

Consult with sexual assault centers and domestic violence centers that can help to guide you through the process of making a decision. There is a list of kink aware victim services under the Consent Counts Project on the NCSF website who are ready to help kinky victims. There are also many anonymous rape crisis centers and call lines, and these victim advocates will not reveal your information and you can speak freely with them. However victim advocates in police departments and State Attorney’s offices may reveal the details of your accusation to law enforcement and prosecutors.

3. Are kinky people discriminated against when they report an assault to the police?

BDSM is often misunderstood, so you may find that law enforcement officers, prosecutors and social service workers don’t understand BDSM or consent in a BDSM context. They may blame the victim for agreeing to do BDSM. When kinky people also have other marginalized identities, you can face a poor or a hostile response. For example a kinky person of color or kinky gay male bottom may face more barriers to support. 

4. How can I explain this was assault instead of consensual BDSM?

Download the NCSF wallet card: BDSM vs. Assault for Law Enforcement and Victims & Social Services. It’s a handy tool to quickly be able to explain the concept of BDSM vs. Assault in terms of consent rather than specific practices. Be honest about what happened with the police because they will not respond well if they find out you are lying about any point. Tell them what you agreed to do, what activities violated your consent, and if you have any written email or texts of your negotiations, bring that as well.

5. Are there any options other than reporting it to the police?

If your consent is violated at a BDSM event or party, report it to the group leaders immediately. Hold your local groups and events accountable for helping to stop consent violations by encouraging the group to establish a consent policy and deal with violations when they happen in communal spaces. Consult with NCSF’s Guide for Groups on what your group can do to establish a consent policy. You can also get a restraining order to keep someone away from you, which becomes part of that person’s record and keeps them from getting near you. You can also file a civil lawsuit.

6. What do I do if I’m hurt but I don’t know if I want to report it to the police?

Get medical treatment for any health issues related to the assault. With BDSM-related injuries, you don’t have to go into details about the cause, If rape was involved, keep in mind that most hospitals may have mandatory police reporting of your injuries if they do a "rape kit." There are time-limits for collecting evidence and getting treatments to prevent pregnancy and/or Sexually Transmitted Infections if you have been exposed—so the sooner you do this step, the better.

7. Can I be arrested for doing BDSM if I was the bottom?

This is highly unlikely in the U.S. The precedent set by the courts is that consensual BDSM may be considered assault, whether there was consent or not. Law enforcement officers are more likely to be prejudiced against the BDSM top rather than the bottom, no matter who committed the assault. However, NCSF is not aware of any case where someone made a complaint of rape or criminal assault and the police or prosecutor charged the victim with assault for doing BDSM.

8. If I report the assault to the police, does that mean I’ll have to go through a trial?

About 85% of reported cases never go to trial, however if someone is reported for assault multiple times, your complaint may be taken more seriously by prosecutors. Of the cases prosecuted, approximately 90% end in plea deals. If the case is settled out of court, the victim doesn’t go through a trial however the perpetrator suffers consequences for their crime.

9. Is it too late to report what happened if it was two weeks ago?

You can report a crime two weeks or even more after the incident but it isn’t as likely that it will be prosecuted because the delayed complaint may be seen as less credible and because it’s more difficult to collect usable evidence. However there is a statute of limitations against prosecuting crimes years after they happened, depending on the type and degree of crime. The statute of limitations doesn’t put a deadline on reporting a crime and it may be useful to report a crime even after the statute expires to open an investigation into a person or to support an ongoing investigation of a repeat offender.

10. Will I be outed to my family or job if I report a crime?

Once you make a criminal report, anything that you tell police or prosecutors could come out in public. Whether this is likely to happen depends on the nature of the case and the people involved. However, most prosecutors  and law enforcement officers are careful to conceal the personal details of the victim when dealing with sexual assault cases, and most kinky victims in cases that are covered by the media do have their identity protected. 

11. Will I be shunned by BDSM groups for reporting and thereby “outing” someone who assaulted me?

The crime of assault is much more serious than BDSM confidentiality rules.

12. I’m the Top. Who will believe that I was the one assaulted?

Unfortunately tops as well as bottoms can be victims of assault. Assault is also non-gender-specific. In either case, you will have a much more difficult time explaining that you were assaulted because of the stereotypes about victims and assailants.

13. I’m transgender or my assailant was transgender. Does that mean I shouldn’t report it?

People who are transgender or gender queer should get the assistance of a local GLBTQ victim services program. If there isn’t one in your area, call the closest one and ask for a recommendation. The
identity/orientation of the assailant and the victim may be a factor in how they are treated by law enforcement and the judicial system, however as a victim, your first concern should be for yourself.

14. What other issues should I consider when deciding whether to report a BDSM-related assault? 

People who are kinky may have a more difficult time reporting an assault to the police if they are also undocumented immigrants, if English is not their language of comfort, if they have a disability, a past experience with incarceration or a criminal record of any kind. Know the process takes a lot of time and that your private identify may not be protected. For example, victims of rape usually have their identities protected while victims of assault may not.

15. How can I help kinky victims?

No one should have to be alone when dealing with a sexual assault. If you know someone who has been assaulted, then listen to their story, sympathize with the pain they are in, and help them get the professional help (especially counseling) that they may need to deal with the situation. If the consent violation happened in a group setting, support the person making the allegation and encourage your leaders to investigate what happened. When kinky victims choose to report an assault, they need an advocate by their side who has been trained in how
to deal with social services and law enforcement.

16. What else can I do?

Make consent an issue with your local groups and events. Host or participate in discussions and workshops on domestic violence and sexual assault, and download the NCSF Consent Counts discussion guide to hold a roundtable on consent. Make it a priority that communal spaces are safe by encouraging your BDSM group or events to create and enforce a consent policy (consult NCSF’s Guide for Groups for more information). You can also help network within your local community to make sure that victims of assault know their rights and options so they can get help and the justice they deserve.


NCSF materials are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

Download a PDF of this Statement

Is this Assault?

1. It is assault if…

Your safeword, safe sign, or your withdrawal of consent is ignored.

Your partner goes beyond the limits of what you agreed to do before you started your BDSM play or before starting a power exchange relationship.

Your partner pressured, tricked or threatened you into doing BDSM or agreeing to a power exchange relationship, or forced you into activities or a relationship you don’t really want.

2. Can I say no to something if I consented to a power exchange contract?

Power exchange contracts are not legal contracts. A power exchange contract is like a commitment vow, it’s an agreement that lasts as long as everyone involved is okay with it. You always have the right to leave a relationship. If you are doing BDSM or engaged in a power exchange relationship and want to stop, you have the legal right to insist that your partner(s) stop. A pattern of consent violations, including emotional abuse, stealing, and threatening behavior, may be considered domestic violence and also can be reported to the police.

3. Is it rape or criminal assault if I’ve done BDSM before with the person who violated my consent?

Yes, ethically and legally it is wrong. Even if you have done certain things with someone before, you have the right not to do those activities again. If you have done BDSM with someone before, you may both agree that tacit or ongoing consent to those particular activities exists until you withdraw consent. But legally you can always withdraw your consent, and if you withdraw consent to any activities or to a power exchange relationship then your partner has to stop.

If you go to the police in this situation, whether there will be an arrest or criminal charges will not be entirely up to you. Police and prosecutors will make those decisions based on the specifics of the laws where you live, but also based on their judgment about how a jury would react to the facts and whether or not they think they can win the case. They may decide that they cannot prosecute if you have a history of playing with the person who violated you, but that is not the same thing as deciding that it didn't happen, or that it was okay. 

4. My limits were violated, but everything else we’ve done was consensual – is it still criminal assault?

It may be assault if any activity is done that goes beyond what you consented to or your previously stated limits. Someone also might violate your consent though poor communication, misunderstanding, technical accidents, lack of knowledge, or lack of expertise. Errors, miscommunications and misunderstandings can occur if you don’t fully discuss the desires and limits of those involved, taking into account familiarity with each other and the activities planned.

5. Am I partially to blame if I said “yes” up until I said “no”?

Absolutely not. If a partner deliberately goes beyond what you agreed to, violates your limits, or continues anactivity after you withdraw consent, then it is assault. Many people who have experienced rape, assault or abuse blame themselves, and that's a normal way to feel, but the person responsible for the harm that you suffered is the person who harmed you. It is the bottom’s ethical responsibility to be clear about limits and to communicate that consent is withdrawn, and it’s the top’s legal obligation, even if the bottom’s communication was not clear, to respect withdrawal of consent.

6. If I don’t resist physically, does that mean it isn't rape or sexual assault?

Physical resistance is not always possible or safe. Victims often shut down in response to assault, emotionally and physically. It is still assault if you withdraw consent or safeword, but don’t physically resist 

7. What if I don’t say no during the BDSM activities, even though my previously negotiated limits were violated?

If you negotiated limits prior to the scene, and a partner ignored those limits, then your consent was violated. Sometimes people are in subspace or are otherwise in some mental state that interferes with the ability to withdraw consent or safeword. If this happens to you and you feel violated, your feelings of violation are valid. However if you involve the criminal justice system, it may be more difficult to prove there was criminal assault unless you have evidence (email or text messages of the limits) and/or witnesses to the activities and your prior negotiation.

8. What if the activity was negotiated or wasn’t explicitly forbidden, but I didn’t say no for some reason?

If the activity falls within what you agreed to, and you didn’t withdraw consent, then the top may not have known that you wanted it to stop. Misunderstandings and miscommunications can cause bad feelings, and they can also create a situation where it is, in the eyes of the law, unclear that consent was given or that consent was withdrawn. If serious injury occurs in such a situation, criminal prosecution may result.

9. I was drunk and/or my partner was drunk, does that mean it wasn't rape or criminal assault?

A person’s state of mental impairment is not a defense for committing assault. If you aren’t of sound mind, then you can’t consent to BDSM activities.



NCSF materials are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice.

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How You Can Help

    • Work to change antiquated laws
    • Work to change the social climate about sexual issues
    • Promote acceptance of safe, sane, and consensual alternative sexual practices among consenting adults
    • Oppose censorship of consensual sexual expression
    • Fight for freedom of academic expression about sexual issues
    • Help communities and individuals facing the threat of prosecution or legal action
    • Support the right of adults to express their sexuality, gender identity and orientation freely and openly without fear
    • Learn more about NCSF

Why You Should Care

Because your sexual expression...
  • Can result in discrimination, prosecution, and even violence against you
  • Can cause you to lose your children
  • Can cause you to lose your job or your income
  • Can lead you into a maze of antiquated laws and regulations you never even knew existed
  • Is arbitrarily criminalized by state and local authorities
  • Is used by the radical right to marginalize minority groups
  • Can result in the invasion of your privacy by the government, both within your own home or in educational, social and group environments