Glossary of terms

Alcohol or drug facilitated sexual assault

The use of alcohol or other drugs to intentionally incapacitate or sedate another person for the purpose of sexual assault. This includes an assailant targeting someone who is already observably intoxicated.

Acquaintance sexual assault

A form of sexual assault in which the survivor has an existing relationship with the assailant. The assailant may be someone the survivor hardly knows, such as a friend of a friend or a first date, or they may be someone the survivor knows well, such as a partner or a close friend.


A tactic used to intimidate, trick or force someone to have sex without resorting to physical force. Some examples of coercion are:

  • Constantly putting pressure on someone and refusing to take no for an answer.
  • Implying sex is owed in return for financial favors, such as buying dinner, drinks or gifts.
  • Making someone feel guilty for not engaging in sex ("if you loved me you would...").
  • Continually buying alcohol to inebriate the other person(s).
  • Being emotionally manipulative ("I can't live without you...").


Cyber violence is online behaviour that constitutes or leads to harm against the physical, psychological and/or emotional state of an individual or group. Cyber violence includes cyberstalking (by both strangers and abusive partners), unwanted advances, online harassment, non-consensual sharing of sexual images, identity theft and the sharing of private information. Cyber violence can take place in a multitude of online settings such as chat rooms, message boards, discussion forums, email, online directories, google searches and, of course, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, etc. [1]

The behaviours that cyber violence enables, including bullying, blackmail, homophobia and misogyny, have existed offline for a long time. The reach and longevity of online technology, along with the relative anonymity allowed by the medium, has changed the nature and consequences of these behaviours.

[1] Herring, Susan C. “Cyber Violence: Recognizing and Resisting Abuse in Online Environments.” Asian Women, vol 14, 2002, pp. 187-212.


The act of making new information known for the purpose of seeking support and/or information. [2]

[2] Smith, SG. The Process and Meaning of Sexual Assault Disclosure. 2005. Georgia State University, PhD dissertation.

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) involves the use and abuse of power and control over another person and is perpetrated against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender.  Violence against women and girls is one form of GBV.  It also has a disproportionate impacts on LGBTQ2 (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender, queer, questioning, intersex and two-spirit) and gender-non-conforming people.  GBV includes emotional and pscyhological violence, such as intentional misgendering, intentional "outing", and use of gendered slurs, as well as physical, sexual, and structural or systemic violence.  

Intimate partner violence

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is violence committed by spouses and dating partners, that is violence committed within an intimate relationship. It is the abuse of power and control within a past or current relationship that endangers the well-being, security or survival of another person.  Often, the abusive behaviours can be difficult to detect because as they are perpetrated in a manipulative and subtle way, particularly in new relationships, and are often disguised as acts of love and caring. IPV commonly starts off as emotional and/or verbal aggression or abuse, and can occasionally lead to acts of physical violence. An abusive partner will use different forms of violence to maintain control in their relationship or a sense of power over their partner. This pattern is known as the Cycle of Violence. To learn more about interpersonal violence, the warning signs, and how to help someone in an abusive relationship, check out the Government of Québec's Conjugal Violence website.


Popularized by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in the 1980s, the terms refers to intersections between the facets of one's identity (see also social location) and related forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. Sexual assault and harassment affect people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races and ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and abilities. An intersectional approach to sexual assault and harassment recognizes that individuals who belong to certain marginalized identities and communities are disproportionately affected by sexual assault and harassment. The different aspects of an individual’s identity shape their experience of sexual assault or harassment and a survivor’s position within society impacts their ability to access support and how other people will interpret and respond to a disclosure.


A form of support that empowers individuals to make decisions and seek recourse by providing information on available options and resources while not encouraging or discouraging the use of certain options and resources over others. [3]

[3] Hoover, Diana, et al. “Directive Support, Nondirective Support, and Health behaviors in a Community Sample.” Journal of Behavioral Medicine, vol 35, 2011, pp. 492-9.


In 1983, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended to replace the offences of rape and indecent assault, amongst others, with three new sexual assault offences, provided in sections 271, 272, and 273 of the code. These amendments focus on the violent rather than sexual nature of the offences. In addition to expanding the definition, the new legislation clarified that males or females could be the victim of sexual assault and that the spouse of a victim could be charged with sexual assault.

Rape culture

A culture in which dominant ideologies, media images, social practices and institutions promote or condone, either implicitly or explicitly, the normalization of male sexual violence and victim blaming. In a rape culture, incidents of sexual assault, rape and general gender-based violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized and/or made the fodder of jokes and entertainment. [4]

[4] Buchwald, E., Fletcher, P. R., & Roth, M. Transforming a Rape Culture. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 1993.


It is the act of informing someone in authority of an incident for the purpose of initiating an investigative process.  At McGill, reports of sexual violence are received and investigated by the External Special Investigator.  The findings of an investigation may result in internal disciplinary or administrative measures. 

Revenge porn

The distribution of nude and/or sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without their consent. In many cases, the pictures or footage are obtained by a partner during a relationship and posted after a break-up. Posts can also be made by acquaintances, former partners or hackers hacking into someone's personal electronic device(s).

On December 9, 2014, Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act, the Competition Act and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, also known as the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act (Act), received royal assent. The Act, sometimes colloquially referred to as Canada’s cyberbullying law, was originally introduced in the House of Commons on November 20, 2013, and came into force on March 9, 2015.

The Act provides for two main amendments to the Criminal Code: A new offence of non-consensual distribution of intimate images (referred to as the cyberbullying section), making it an offence to knowingly publish an intimate image of a person, knowing that he or she did not provide consent or being reckless regarding the person’s lack of consent. These provisions also give courts the complementary power to order removal of the image and forfeiture of the device used in the offence.

Safe(r) space

An area or forum where there are stated norms against (certain forms of) exclusion, discrimination and oppression. A Safe(r) Space challenges and confronts oppression and discrimination.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault refers to any act of a sexual nature carried out in circumstances in which an individual has not freely agreed or consented. Sexual assault includes unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature from unwanted kissing and touching to forced sexual intercourse and/or oral sex.

Sexual consent

To consent is to voluntary agree, free from coercion, to engage in sexual activity. Consent must be given whenever a sexual activity is proposed. When a person consents to a sexual activity, that consent will not automatically carry over to future sexual practices. Consent to one act does not mean agreeing to all sexual acts. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. A person is not capable of consenting to sexual activity when that person is incapacitated by alcohol or drugs, is unconscious, or where a person abuses a relationship of trust, power, or authority (e.g. between a professor and their student).

Sexual harassment

Any unwanted sexual communication or attention that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating, whether in verbal, written or visual form. This may include psychological violence, verbal abuse, manipulation and coercion.


The act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that one thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity. [5]

[5] Sweeney, B. “Slut Shaming.” In K. Nadal (Ed.), The SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2017, pp. 1579-1580.

Social location

A term which refers to both how one locates oneself and is located by others based on the position one holds within society. Social locations includes one's age, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, ability, religion, class/socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and/or citizenship status. [6] It refers to how these different positions intersect and operate at a structural (societal views; social policies); institutional (health and social services; schools); community (neighbourhoods; community centres); and personal level.

[6] Murphy, Yvette. Incorporating Intersectionality in Social Work Practice, Research, Policy, and Education. NASW Press, National Association of Social Workers, 2009.


Stalking; the willful, malicious, and repeated following and/or harassing of another person; is a form of criminal harassment under section 261 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It can involve repeatedly following a person, watching their house, repeated communication with the person and/or threats to them or their family. [7] Examples of stalking behaviour include:

  • Continuous communication, either directly or indirectly, with the person. This may include calling on the phone repeated text or social media messages, repeated letters or stealing mail.
  • Repeatedly following a person. This may include watching the person, tracking them, showing up at their home, work or school uninvited, being present at parties or events where the stalker knows the person will be. The stalker may also follow someone known to the person.
  • Attempting to woo the person into a relationship by constantly sending flowers, candy, love letters, etc.
  • Turn to intimidation and threatening behaviour when the person refuses the stalker's unwelcome advances. This may include vandalizing the person’s home or car, leaving tokens to let the person know that they are being watched, direct or indirect threats to the person’s safety or the safety of those close to them.

[7] “Stalking Is a Crime Called Criminal Harassment.” Department of Justice Canada, 2003,


Stealthing refers to the purposeful and secretive removal of a condom during intercourse, when a partner’s consent has only been given for condom-protected sex. [8]

[8] Brodsky, Alexandra. “Rape-adjacent: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal.” Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, vol 32, 2017, pp. 183-210.


Both terms are used to refer to a person who was sexually assaulted. In the 70's and 80's, advocates and activists in North America who worked to support those who have been sexually assaulted encouraged moving away from the term "victim" to the term "survivor". Now most commonly used in North-America, the term "survivor" generally focuses on agency and resilience whereas "victim" refers to the person being victimized by someone else and focuses on elements outside of a person’s control. [9] “Victim” is commonly used in the judicial system (by the police and in court) and is the most common term in the media. It is equally possible for a person to be a survivor and a victim depending on their experience. Personal, cultural, and socio-political reasons may influence a person in self-identifying with either term.

[9] “Victim or Survivor: Terminology from Investigation Through Prosecution.” RTI International,


A form of sexual violence response that prioritizes supporting the survivor and protecting their rights. The approach also aims to help those who have been assaulted begin to define their own experience.

Technology-facilitated sexual violence

Technology-facilitated sexual violence (TFSV) refers to a range of behaviors where digital technologies are used to facilitate both virtual and face-to-face sexually based harms. This includes experiences such as cyberstalking, cyber harassment, and image-based abuse, such as the production, distribution, or threat of distribution of someone else’s nude or sexual image without that person’s consent and the sending of unsolicited nude or sexual images.  

Victim blaming

The act of blaming the occurrence of sexual assault on the survivor instead of the person who committed the sexual assault. Victim blaming can be very implicit. For example, recommending that one does not wear revealing clothing, travel alone at night, or engage in sexting implies that such actions provoke sexual assault. A non-victim blaming response acknowledges that people make choices to violate the bodily integrity of others, and that they alone are responsible for these choices. [10]

[10] “Victim Blaming.” The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, 2009,

McGill is located on unceded lands which have traditionally served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst diverse indigenous peoples. The Kanien’kehá:ka, a founding nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the Anishinabeg are recognized as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which Tiohtià:ke/Montréal is located. Learn more about the land you’re on by following this link, and commit to taking action to support the ongoing resistance and thriving of local Indigenous communities.


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