Definitions of sexual violence

Content Warning: this section contains explicit references to acts of sexual harassment, violence, and misconduct.

Sexual violence is defined as: "any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work" (World Health Organization).

Rape is when someone puts their penis into (penetrates) the vagina, anus or mouth of another person without their consent.

Assault by penetration is when someone puts another part of their body, or an object, into another person’s vagina or anus without that person's consent.

Sexual assault is when someone touches another person in a sexual way without that person’s consent.

Sexual harassment is unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature which violates a person's dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

Examples of sexual harassment include:

  • 'Banter', wolf-whistling or comments of a sexual nature
  • Questions or jokes about a person's sex life
  • Texts, messages or emails with content of a sexual nature
  • Unwanted physical contact and touching
  • Using sexual images without the subject's consent, e.g. posting images on social media