Consistent definitions are needed to:
- Provide a clear understanding of sexual violence and sexual assault.
- Provide a shared understanding of the nature and impacts of sexualized trauma.
- Develop a common language that is victim-centered, trauma-informed and gender inclusive.
Sexual Violence – a spectrum of non-consensual sexual contact and behaviour. There are many different types of sexual violence, including sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, criminal harassment, indecent exposure, voyeurism, etc. Sexual violence can be perpetrated by anyone – an acquaintance, a classmate, a teacher, a family member, a colleague, a friend, a dating partner, an intimate partner, or a stranger.
Sexual Harassment – Sexual harassment refers to unwanted communications or actions that are sexual in nature, and are offensive, intimidating, or humiliating. It can take many forms, including verbal, written, or visual. Sexual harassment includes unwanted touching, offensive jokes, sexual requests, and verbal abuse. Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination, and falls under Human Rights Law (not the Criminal Code of Canada).
Sexual Assault – Sexual assault is any form of sexual contact that occurs without ongoing and freely given consent. Sexual assault includes any form of sexual contact where consent has not been given (e.g., non-consensual touching that is sexual in nature, forced vaginal or anal penetration). Sexual assault can be committed by an intimate partner, someone known to the victim/survivor (sometimes called “acquaintance rape” or “date rape”), or a stranger.
All definitions were taken from “Campus Sexual Violence: Guidelines for a Comprehensive Response” produced by the Western Canada Sexual Assault Initiative May 2016 and funded by the Ending Violence Association of BC.