Glossary Of Terms

The following are terms commonly used when discussing sexual assault. Adopting a pro-survivor approach allows each person to define their own experience. The terms provided here are general and some people may feel that some or all of these terms do not apply to them. It is important to recognize that every person affected by sexual assault has the right to label their own expeirences and use whichever term(s) they choose.

Glossary Of Terms:

Acquaintance Sexual Assault

A form of sexual assault in which the survivor has an existing relationship with the assailant. The assailant may be someone the survivor hardly knows, such as a friend of a friend or a first date, or they may be someone the survivor knows well, such as a partner or a close friend.


A tactic used by perpetrators to intimidate, trick or force someone to have sex with them without physical force. Some examples of coercion are:

  • Constantly putting pressure on someone and refusing to take no for an answer
  • Implying sex is owed in return for financial favors, such as buying dinner, drinks or gifts
  • Making someone feel guilty for not engaging in sex ("if you loved me you would...")
  • Continually buying alcohol to inebriate the target
  • Being emotionally manipulative ("I can't live without you...")

Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault

The use of alcohol or other drugs to intentionally incapacitate or sedate another person for the purpose of sexual assault. This includes a perpetrator targeting someone who is already observably intoxicated.

Gender-Based Violence

Any violence that is directed against a person on the basis of their gender. Gender-based violence reflects and reinforces inequalities and sustains gender stereotypes


The study of intersections between the facets of one's identity and related forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination. For example, black feminism argues that the experience of being a black female includes and is defined by both the experience of being black and being female simultaneously.

Interpersonal violence

Also referred to as Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Domestic Violence, it is the abuse of power and control within a past or current relationship that endangers the well-being, security or survival of another person. Interpersonal Violence can occur in all types of relationships (e.g., dating, long-term, common-law, marriage, etc.). It can also occur between roommates and close friends.


A form of support that empowers individuals to make decisions and seek recourse by providing information on available options and resources while not encouraging or discouraging the use of certain options and resources over others.


A form of sexual assault response that prioritizes supporting the survivor and protecting their rights. The approach also aims to help those who have been assaulted begin to define their own experience.


A term used mostly in legal contexts in the United States to refer only to forced penetration. In 1983, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended to replace the offences of rape and indecent assault, amongst others, with three new sexual assault offences, provided in sections 271, 272, and 273 of the code. These amendments help avoid the stigma associated with the word "rape" and focus on the violent rather than sexual nature of the offences. In addition to expanding the definition, the new legislation clarified that males or females could be the victim of sexual assault and that the spouse of a victim could be charged with sexual assault.

Rape Culture

A culture in which dominant ideologies, media images, social practices and institutions promote or condone, either implicitly or explicitly, the normalization of male sexual violence and victim blaming. In a rape culture, incidents of sexual assault, rape and general gender-based violence are ignored, trivialized, normalized and/or made the fodder of jokes and entertainment.

Revenge Porn

The distribution of nude and/or sexually explicit photos and/or videos of an individual without their consent. In many cases, the pictures or footage are obtained by a partner during a relationship and posted after a break-up. Posts can also be made by acquaintances, former partners or hackers hacking into someone's personal electronic device(s).

Safe(r) Space

An area or forum where there are stated norms against (certain forms of) exclusion, discrimination and oppression. A Safe(r) Space challenges and confronts oppression and discrimination.

Sexual Assault

Any act of a sexual nature without the consent of the other person(s). For the purpose of this website, sexual assault is used as an umbrella term to include any physical and/or psychological violence that is carried out through sexual means and/or targets a person's sexuality.

Sexual Assault Centre of McGill Students' Society (SACOMSS)

A volunteer-run organization committed to supporting survivors of sexual assault and their allies through direct support, advocacy and outreach. Their services include Drop-In and Line (DIAL), Support Groups, Advocacy and Outreach. Additionally, they offer sexual assault sensitivity training to McGill and Montreal groups, provide information and referrals and organize events to raise awareness about sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment

Any unwanted sexual communication or attention that is offensive, intimidating or humiliating, whether in verbal, written or visual form. This may include psychological violence, verbal abuse, manipulation and coercion. An example of sexual harassment is when a teacher's assistant invites a student on a date and implies that their grades will benefit if they accept the invitation or worsen if they don't. Under the policies and procedures in place at McGill Universisty, acts of sexual harassment are dealt with separately from acts of sexual assault.


The act of criticising a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that one thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity.


The willful, malicious and repeated following and/or harassing of another person. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, stalking is refered to as Criminal Harassment. It can involve repeatedly following the target, watching the target's house, repeated communication with the target and/or threats to the target or target's family.

Social Location

A term which refers to both how one locates oneself and is located by others based on the position one holds within society. Social locations includes one's age, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, ability, religion, class/socio-economic status, sexual orientation, and/or citizenship status. It refers to how these different positions intersect and operate at a structural (societal views; social policies); institutional (health and social services; schools); community (neighbourhoods; community centres); and personal level.


A term, now commonly used in place of "victim," to refer to a person who has survived sexual assault. Using "survivor" instead of "victim" aims to empower the individual and help them regain the power that was taken from them.

The Union For Gender Empowerment (UGE)

The Union For Gender Empowerment (UGE) is a trans-positive, feminist service of the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU). Everyone is welcome to use their services. They coordinate: an alternative lending library (with over a thousand titles); a co-op stocking pay-what-you-can, ecologically responsible menstrual products, DIY sex toys, safer sex supplies and other gender empowerment items; and a zine library. The UGE also runs trans 101/allyship and anti-oppression workshops for other organizations and projects, and has a resource binder with information about abortion services, counseling and queer/trans-friendly health services in Montreal.


A term used in the judicial system (by the police and in court) to refer to a person who has survived sexual assault. It is also the term most commonly used in the media. In the 70's and 80's, advocates and activists working to support those who have been assaulted encouraged moving away from the term "victim" to the term "survivor."

Victim Blaming

The act of blaming the occurrence of sexual assault on the survivor instead of the perpetrator. Victim blaming can be very implicit. For example, recommending that one does not wear revealing clothing or travel alone at night implies that such actions provoke sexual assault. A non-victim blaming response acknowledges that perpetrators make choices to violate the bodily integrity of others, and that perpetrators alone are responsible for these choices.