Gender-Based Violence Definitions and Terminology

Culturally-safe approaches 
Approaches that recognize and challenge unequal power relations between service providers and survivors by building equitable, two-way relationships characterized by respect, shared responsibility, and cultural exchange. Survivors must have their culture, values, and preferences taken into account in the provision of services.
Criminal harassment or stalking
Repeated conduct that makes someone fear for their safety or the safety of someone they care about. It can include: watching or following someone; making threats that cause someone to fear for their safety; making threats to someone’s children, family, pets or friends that cause fear; or repeatedly contacting someone or sending gifts after being asked to stop.
Emotional abuse and psychological abuse

When a person uses words or actions to control, frighten isolate or take away another person’s self-respect. Emotional abuse is sometimes called psychological abuse. It can include: put downs, name calling or insults; constantly yelling at someone; keeping someone from seeing family or friends; making fun of someone’s religion or faith, not letting a person practice it (spiritual abuse); controlling what someone wears, where someone goes, who someone can see (in the case of adults); preventing someone from going out, taking classes or working if the person wants to (in the case of adults); threatening to have a person deported if the person doesn’t behave a certain way; making threats to harm another person; destroying a person’s belongings, hurting a person’s pets or threatening to do so; or bullying (intimidating or humiliating someone, including on the internet) 

Some forms of emotional abuse are crimes: stalking, threats to harm someone, harassing someone on the phone, intimidating someone on purpose or counselling (advising) someone to commit suicide. Many other forms of emotional abuse are not crimes, but they often have long-term negative effects and sometimes lead to criminal acts later on. 

Exposure to intimate partner violenceWhen children are aware of intimate partner violence that is happening in their home. 
Family violence 
Any form of abuse or neglect that a child or adult experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. It is an abuse of power by one person to hurt and control someone who trusts and depends on them.
Femicide The intentional killing of women because they are women.
Financial abuse

When someone uses money or property to control or exploit another person. It can involve: taking someone’s money or property without permission; withholding someone’s money so the person cannot pay for things; making someone sign documents to sell things that the person doesn’t want to sell; forcing someone to change his/her/their will; or not letting someone have access to family money to meet the person’s or the person’s children’s basic needs. 

Most forms of financial abuse are crimes, including theft and fraud. Financial abuse can also include situations where one person intends to financially exploit another, as in cases of dowry fraud.
The roles and behaviours that society associates with being female or male. Rigid gender norms can result in stereotyping and curb our expectations of both women and men. A society’s understanding of gender changes over time and varies from culture to culture.
Gender-based violence 

Violence that is committed against someone based on their gender identity, gender expression or perceived gender. Gender-based violence can take many forms: cyber, physical, sexual, psychological, emotional and economic. Neglect and harassment are also forms of gender-based violence. Violence and abuse can have negative effects that span generations and this often leads to cycles of violence and abuse within families and sometimes whole communities.

Gender-based violence includes physical acts as well as words, actions and attempts to control to degrade, control, humiliate, intimidate, coerce, deprive, threaten or harm another person. Examples of gender-based violence/abuse include: physical abuse; sexual abuse (adults); sexual abuse (children); emotional and psychological abuse; criminal harassment or stalking; technology-assisted violence; neglect; so-called “honour” violence; early or forced marriage; financial abuse.

Gender-based violence is linked to sexist attitudes and behaviours and made worse by other forms of discrimination such as racism, ableism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. Discrimination, prejudice and intolerance can also make it hard for survivors from diverse populations to access appropriate support and services.
Human trafficking (for a sexual purpose)

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person in order to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour. It is often described as a modern form of slavery. The Criminal Code of Canada (Criminal Code) contains the tools to hold traffickers accountable and includes four specific indictable offences to address human trafficking, namely sections 279.01 (Trafficking in persons), 279.011 (Trafficking of a person under the age of eighteen years), 279.02 (Material benefit), and 279.03 (Withholding or destroying documents).

Many other Criminal Code offences can also apply to human trafficking cases including kidnapping, forcible confinement, uttering threats, extortion, assault, sexual assault, prostitution-related offences, and criminal organization offences.

"Honour" violence
So-called “honour” violence happens when family members believe that the victim has behaved in ways that will bring shame or dishonour to the family. The violence can be perpetrated by a partner or family member, and from the perpetrator’s perspective, is used to protect the family honour and restore the family’s reputation.
IndigenousIncludes First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Non-status Indians as defined in the Canadian Constitution.
Intergenerational trauma

Happens when a traumatic event not only affects people who experience it, but when it also affects their children and sometimes, grandchildren. For example, children of Indigenous peoples who experienced trauma from residential schools are at higher risk for depression. Other examples of the long-term effects of the residential school experience include loss of traditional knowledge, poor community health, intergenerational stress, disparities in the social determinants of health and disruptions to ethnic and cultural identity. Intergenerational trauma is a significant issue for some Indigenous communities. For these communities it is often related to residential schools as well as historical and political contexts.

The concept of ‘intersectionality’ has been defined as “intersectional oppression [that] arises out of the combination of various oppressions which, together, produce something unique and distinct from any one form of discrimination standing alone....” An intersectional approach takes into account the historical, social and political context and recognizes the unique experience of the individual based on the intersection of all relevant grounds. This approach allows the particular experience of discrimination, based on the confluence of grounds involved, to be acknowledged and remedied.
Intimate partner violence 

(Sometimes referred to as domestic violence) is physical, sexual, or psychological harm that happens in intimate relationships, including marriages, common-law partnerships, or dating relationships. Neglect and harassment are also forms of intimate partner violence. It can take place while the relationship is ongoing or after it has ended. Such violence can occur in opposite- or same-sex relationships, and can be one-sided or involve both partners.

Lateral violence 
(Also referred to as horizontal violence) is violence directed at peers rather than adversaries. Lateral violence occurs in different contexts throughout the world. The Native Women’s Association of Canada defines lateral violence within Indigenous communities as “when a powerful oppressor has directed oppression against a group for a period of time, members of the oppressed group feel powerless to fight back and they eventually turn their anger against each other.
Not providing basic needs (e.g., food, adequate clothing, health care, protection from harm). Some forms of neglect are crimes in Canada, including failure to provide the necessities of life and child abandonment. Everyone has a legal duty as a parent or guardian to provide necessities of life for their dependent children (under 16 years of age), as well as their spouse, common-law partner, and any other person they are legally responsible for. Neglect happens when a family member, who has a duty to care for another, fails to provide for that person's basic needs. It can involve: failing to provide proper food or warm clothing; failing to provide a safe and warm place to live; failing to provide adequate health care, medication and personal hygiene (if needed); failing to prevent physical harm, or failing to ensure proper supervision (if needed). It may also include leaving someone alone for too long when that person is injured or unwell.
Non-consensual distribution of images

In Canada, it is illegal to share intimate images without consent.  An “intimate image” is a visual recording of a person made by any means (e.g. picture or video) in which the person is nude or exposing his or her genitals, rear end or breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity if: 

  1. at the time the recording is made, there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g. a picture taken by a person while in their bedroom); AND
  2. at the time the recording is shared without consent, the person who is in the recording still has a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is expected that if the person who is in the image had a reasonable expectation of privacy when the recording was made the person would retain the expectation of privacy, as long as s/he does not subsequently share the recording with others or post it online, etc.
Physical abuse 

The intentional use of force against a person without that person’s consent. It can cause physical pain or injury that may last a long time. It includes: pushing or shoving; hitting, slapping or kicking; pinching or punching; strangling or choking; stabbing or cutting; shooting; throwing objects at someone; burning; holding someone down for someone else to assault, or locking someone in a room or tying them down.

SexThe biological and physiological characteristics that define males, females and intersex persons.
Sexual abuse (children)

Any sexual contact between an adult and a child under 16 is a crime. Child sexual abuse happens when a person takes advantage of a child for sexual purposes. It does not always involve physical contact with a child. For example, it could happen when an adult makes sexual comments to a child, or secretly watches or films a child for sexual purposes. Sexual abuse of a child includes: any sexual contact between an adult and a child under 16 years of age; any sexual contact with a child between the age of 16 and 18 without consent; or any sexual contact that exploits a child under 18. 

In Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16, but there are some expectations if the other person is close in age to the child. 

In addition, children under 18 cannot legally give their consent to sexual activity that exploits them. Sexual activities that exploit a child include prostitution and pornography. They also include situations where someone in a position of authority or trust, or someone the child depends on, has any kind of sexual activity with the child. A person of authority or trust could be a parent, step-parent, grandparent, older sibling, teacher or coach.

Sexual abuse (adults)
All sexual contact with anyone without consent is a crime called sexual assault. Sexual assault includes sexual touching or forcing sexual activity. It can include: sexual touching or sexual activity without consent; continued sexual contact when asked to stop; or forcing someone to commit unsafe or humiliating sexual acts.
Sexual assault
All sexual contact with anyone without consent is a crime. Sexual assault includes sexing touching or forcing sexual activity. It can include: sexual touching or sexual activity without consent; continued sexual contact when asked to stop; or forcing someone to commit unsafe or humiliating sexual acts. Sexual assault is defined in the Criminal Code of Canada into three separate offences: S 271: Sexual assault (level 1); S 272 Sexual assault committed either with a weapon or with threats to a third party, or causing bodily harm (level 2); and, S 273 Aggravated sexual assault (level 3).
Sexual exploitation

(1) Child sexual exploitation: the act of coercing, luring or engaging a child, under the age of 18, into a sexual act, and involvement in the sex trade or pornography, with or without the child’s consent, in exchange for money, drugs, shelter, food, protection or other necessities. Child sexual exploitation of an individual under the age of 18 is clearly defined and interpreted as child abuse.

(2) Sexual exploitation (general): any actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, differential power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another.

Sexual harassment 
Includes offensive or humiliating behaviour that is related to a person’s sex, as well as behaviour of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or poisoned environment.
Sexual violence 
A broad concept that includes a range of acts in which people can be sexually violated. Examples include all forms of sexual harassment, forced, actual or attempted sexual intercourse, unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault, indecent or sexualized exposure, unwanted sexual comments, sexual molestation, sexual abuse of children, genital mutilation, forced sexual initiation, and sexual exploitation and trafficking with sexual purpose, among others. It can manifest as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Technology-assisted violence
Violence that is committed, facilitated, and aggravated through the use of contemporary technologies. It includes, but not limited to: harassment, cyberstalking. luring, trafficking, non-consensual distribution of intimate images, non-consensual pornography via software applications (i.e. using an AI enabled programme to change the face of a person in a pornographic video recording), doxing (i.e. searching for and publishing private or identifying information about an individual on the internet with malicious intent), and mobbing (i.e. targeted campaign against an individual by a concerted group of perpetrators).
Trauma-informed approaches
Approaches that take into account the lasting effects trauma has on survivors and tailors information, resources, and services to avoid re-traumatizing them.