Definitions

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is: […] any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. This includes sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, incest, childhood sexual abuse and rape during armed conflict. It also includes sexual harassment, stalking, indecent or sexualized exposure, degrading sexual imagery, voyeurism, cyber harassment, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence and a crime under the Criminal Code of Canada. It is an “assault of a sexual nature that violates a person’s sexual integrity.” In other words, it’s a forced sexual act—i.e., non-consentual—involving physical contact (such as kissing or touching) or no contact (such as being forced to look at sexual pictures).

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that creates discomfort or fear and threatens a person’s wellbeing. It is any behaviour, comment, act or unwanted sexual contact that is intended to intimidate a person and treat them as a sexual object, regardless of whether it’s an isolated incident or has occurred multiple times.

It can be a promise of reward for complying with a sexually oriented request, a threat or actual reprisal for not complying with this request or an abuse of power. Just a few examples include staring, proposals and jokes.

Consent

Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. An individual must actively and willingly give consent to sexual activity. Simply stated, sexual activity without consent is sexual assault.

Rape

Rape is a form of sexual assault. It is the forced penetration of a person’s vagina, anus or mouth without the person’s consent.

Rape culture

Rape culture is a culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing male sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse.

Cybersexual violence

There is no universally-accepted definition of cybersexual violence. However, it can be described as using social media and communication technologies for the following: sexual comments or advances; attempts to obtain a sexual act; unwanted sexual acts; sexual coercion.

It can also be spreading rumours online, sending damaging messages, photos or videos, impersonation and much more. All these behaviours aim to damage a person’s feelings, self-esteem, reputation and mental health.

Online sexual assault

Online sexual assault is another form of sexual violence and can involve threats, insults, humiliation, defamation or spreading rumours on the Internet; impersonation; sending damaging messages, photos or videos of a sexual nature via a mobile phone; posting a video of a sexual nature involving someone who was filmed without their knowledge or using any such content in an attempt to obtain a sexual act; sexual comments or advances; or acts involving coercion in any situation for the purposes of trafficking or acts directed at a person’s sexuality—regardless of the relationship of the individuals involved.

Tools and resources

Please note that the feminine is used throughout this website, but it does not exclude any person who has been a victim of sexual violence.

Back to top