About Sexual Assault: Glossary of Terms and Definitions
Click on a term below to open the definitions
is a sexual assault where the survivor knows her/his perpetrator. Some examples could be a partner, co-worker, friend, or teacher.
Childhood Sexual Abuse includes any form of unwanted or coerced sexual touch including but not limited to fondling, exposure, exploitation, attempted or actual sexual assaults towards a young adult or child. Childhood Sexual Abuse is a betrayal of trust that often affects a person’s ability to connect and trust others.
Childhood Sexual Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation or cultural and religious beliefs. Most often Childhood Sexual Abuse is perpetrated by someone you know and trust such as a parent, sibling or extended family member, babysitter, coach, family friend, neighbour, teacher or stranger. Although statistics tells us that the majority of abusers are heterosexual males, females can also be abusers.
The fear and trauma experienced during Childhood Sexual Abuse does not stop when the abuse stops. Many survivors deal with the effects of abuse well into adulthood and often report that the long term effects play out in many aspects of their lives such as in relationships with family and partners, feelings of shame and anger, low self-esteem and body image, addictions and self-harming behaviour.
Sexual abuse IS about power and control and NOT sex, regardless of what you may have been told.
is the intimidation of an individual to compel or persuade another individual to do some act against their will by the use of intimidation, psychological pressure, physical force, and/or threats.
defined as a voluntary agreement or permission given to engage in the sexual activity in question. Consent or a “yes” that is obtained through pressure, coercion, force, or threats of force is not voluntary”. (Criminal Code of Canada Section 273.1)
this is a hate crime and form of sexual violence where one or more people are raped because of their perceived or actual sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The common intended purpose of this, as seen by the perpetrator(s), is to ‘convert’ the person into becoming heterosexual and/or to force conformity with conventional gender stereotypes.
a form of acquaintance rape where the victim knows the perpetrator. This form of sexual violence is perpetrated by an individual that has gone out with, or is on a date with an individual/victim (i.e. may be in a dating relationship, a blind date, ‘hook-up’).
refers to substances that can aid a perpetrator in committing sexual assault/abuse. Some of the drugs commonly used are Rohypnol (‘roofies’), GHB, Ketamine, ecstacy (MDMA), and prescription drugs (i.e. sleep aids, anxiety medication, muscle relaxers, and tranquilizers). Street drugs, like GHB, Rohypnol, ecstasy, and ketamine can be added to drinks and consumed by the victim (without their knowledge), without changing the color, flavor, or odor of the beverage.
If you suspect that you have been drugged or if someone you know has been drugged, get emergency medical assistance immediately. Since you cannot be sure of the dosage that you received and it may not feel like you are having a bad reaction to the drug, it is potentially fatal.
The Durham Rape Crisis Centre can provide accompaniment if you choose to go to the hospital. Please call our 24 hour Crisis and Support Line at (905) 668-9200 for more information.
is a coping strategy often used by survivors of abuse and trauma. There are various forms of dissociations ranging from mild to sever, and may occur consciously (aware/knows that it is happening) or unconsciously (unaware/do not realize that it is occurring). When a survivor experiences dissociation, the remembered event of the sexual assault or trauma may be devoid of meaning or feelings or may be remembered only in fragments. It allows for the disengagement of the event from the survivor’s conscious mind. Severe dissociation can lead to dissociative identity disorders.
perpetrators use date rape drugs and/or alcohol as a method to incapacitate their victim and to ensure that they will not be able to resist the assault. In addition, date rape drugs and alcohol make it difficult for the survivor to recall enough/any details about the assault in order to prosecute the perpetrator. Drug/alcohol facilitated sexual assault can happen to anyone, anywhere, whether the victim is on a date with the perpetrator, or the assailant is a stranger or someone that is known.
is a persistent social relationship in which certain people are mistreated or unfairly used for the benefit of others.
a term used to refer to the removal of part or all of the female genitalia. There are various forms of this painful cultural practice, which serves no purpose other than to act as further forms of power, control and oppression.
are memories of past traumatic experiences. They often take the form of pictures, sounds, smells, tastes, bodily sensations, feelings and/or the lack of feeling.
(aka Familial Sexual Abuse) – refers to sexual contact perpetrated by one family member to another. Incest can be committed by a parent, sibling, another family member and/or an unrelated person living with or treated as part of the family.
aka Systematic Sexual Assault – sometimes called gang rape, occurs when two or more perpetrators act together to sexually assault the same victim. This can include introducing others to participate in sexual activity against a victims will and/or without consent, and using the assault to introduce or reinforce membership in a group, such as a gang, sports team, or club.
It is often used to control, condition, or to ‘initiate’ victims. This form of abuse may be repeated frequently and be perpetrated under the guise of a spiritual expression or initiation into a gang or other secret or selective group.
is forced or coerced intercourse that involves vaginal penetration, anal penetration and/or oral sex. This term is very limited as it does not include all the other acts of sexualized violence.
“You are self [injuring] if you are hurting yourself in some way. It is possible that you are harming yourself in a number of different ways and this is causing damage to your body, your mental health and your life in general by the action that you take” (SAFE in Canada, 1999, week 2, pg 5)
Self Injury is not a form of suicide. Individuals who harm themselves learn this form of coping to deal with uncontrollable feelings and thoughts. It is a coping mechanism learned to relieve deep and painful thoughts and feelings and may be a sign that someone needs care and support. (CMHA, 2017)
aka Gender Discrimination – is prejudice, stereotyping or discrimination on the basis of sex/gender of an individual or group. Sexism can be personal (i.e. insults, harassment and/or discrimination directed at an individual) or can be institutionally systemic (i.e. exclusion or discrimination against individuals or groups based on conventional practices or structures of institutions).
the legal term used in Canada to refer to any form of sexual contact without voluntary consent. This can include forced or unwanted kissing, fondling, vaginal penetration, anal penetration and/or oral sex and attempted rape. (Adapted from Canadian Criminal Code).
is a form of human trafficking where children, youth and adults are sexually abused through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for food, drugs, shelter, protection, other necessities/basics of life and/or money (Justice Institute of British Columbia, 2017). Commercial sexual exploitation is a subset of sexual exploitation, and involves paying someone (i.e. pimp, club manager, random person) for sexual activities, or for sexually graphic materials or behaviors. Some examples of this include stripping, prostitution, nude bars, live sex shows, and peep shows.
Any unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and/or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This can include, but is not limited to, catcalling, showing of lewd/sexual materials, unwanted touching, leers and/or gestures. This can occur anywhere, such as at work, at home, within one’s neighbourhood/community, at school, etc.
is an all-encompassing term that refers to acts such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, rape, and sexual assault. It is a sexual act(s) committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent. Sexual/sexualized violence refers to any violence (physical or psychological) that is carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. Sexual/sexualized violence can also include sexual exploitation by helping professionals, professional/workplace sexual exploitation, military sexual trauma, prisoner rape, and sexual abuse/assault of the elderly and/or differently-abled individuals.
a term used to describe repeated patterns of unwanted behaviours or acts used to harass, threaten, or intimidate a person. Stalking is about power and control and often causes an individual to fear for their safety.
are anything that can activate an anxiety-provoking response (i.e. panic attack, flashback, anxiousness, etc.) and is often very personal to the individual. Triggers can be set off by sight, smell, sound, touch or taste, and can also occur seemingly in the absence of any of the above.