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Key Definitions

broad term that describes any violence, physical or psychological, carried out through sexual means or by targeting sexuality. SV encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act (i.e., rape), an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment).  All types involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act. (1)


A term used to capture violence rooted in misogyny, patriarchy, and heteronormativity.  Such violence is a result of gender norms learned through socialization and culture that deem those of certain genders, sexual orientations, and sexual identities as unequal.  Examples include sexual violence, intimate partner violence, homophobic violence, and transphobic violence. (1a)


Equal visibility, empowerment and participation of both sexes in all spheres of public and private life. (2) 


A clearly and freely given word or overt action confirming a willing desire towards and limited to a specific sexual request or experience; consent cannot be obtained from minors or individuals whom are mentally impaired, including impairment by intoxication through drugs or alcohol (voluntarily or involuntarily); it is also an affirmative response, not a lack of one. (3)



The socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. (4)



A complex set of beliefs that encourage masculine sexual aggression and supports violence against women and some men. It is a society where violence is seen as sexy and sexuality as violent. In a rape culture, women and some men perceive a continuum of threatened violence that ranges from sexual remarks to sexual touching to rape itself. A rape culture condones physical and emotional terrorism against women as the norm.  In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, inevitable.  However, much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can change. (5)



Forcing, or attempting to force, another person to engage in behaviors against her will by using threats, verbal insistence, manipulation, deception, cultural expectations or economic power. (6)



The capacity to make decisions. All relationships are affected by the exercise of power. When power is used to make decision regarding one’s own life, it becomes an affirmation of self-acceptance and self-respect that, in turn, fosters respect and acceptance of others as equals. When used to dominate, power imposes obligations on, restricts, prohibits and makes decisions about the lives of others. (6)



A person, group, or institution that directly inflicts, supports and condones violence or other abuse against a person or a group of persons. Perpetrators are in a position of real or perceived power, decision-making and/or authority and can thus exert control over their victims. (6)

Sexual Violence (SV):

Gender Equality: 

Sexual Consent:

Rape Culture: 





Gender-Based Violence (GBV)



1. Basile K.C., Sexual Violence Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements Version 2.0. Atlanta (GA): National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2014.

SACHA Sexual Assault Center, What is Sexual Violence?, 9/23/19.

1a. Strengthening Health System Responses to Gender-based Violence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. 4/24/18.


2.  Definitions.  Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment. 10/11/15.


3. Equality between Women and Men. Council of Europe. 4/24/15.


4. Gender, Women, and Health. World Health Organization. 8/22/15.


5. What is Rape Culture? Women Against Violence Against Women. 10/11/15.


6. It’s in our hands Stop the Violence Against Women. Amnesty International publication. 2004. 9/14/15.

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