Key Definitions

We are constantly learning and evolving. Help break down the barriers and myths of sexual violence. This can be done through education and training and learning how to become an active bystander. Review the key definitions below to help in the process of learning and unlearning.


A formal report of sexual violence being filed with The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education.


An individual directly impacted by sexual violence or a University representative who has filed a report under this policy.


  • Consent is active, ongoing, informed and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Consent cannot be implied or assumed.
  • Consent cannot be given by someone who is incapacitated, unconscious, intoxicated or otherwise incapable of consenting.
  • Consent can be withdrawn anytime.
  • Consent cannot be obtained through threats, coercion or other forms of control and intimidation, which includes coercion through abuse of a position of trust, power or authority and;
  • It is the responsibility of the person who wishes to initiate sexual activity to obtain consent from the other person(s) involved.
  • The definition of consent does not vary based on a person’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.


When an individual who has experienced sexual violence confides in someone about their experience. Disclosure is presumed to be for the purpose of obtaining support and services and/or to learn about options to make a formal report but is different from reporting.

Imminent Risk

An assessment that an act of harm to an individual or individuals is about to occur or that there is a compelling likelihood that an act of harm will occur.


Intersectionality, first coined by Kimberle Crenshaw refers to a complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as cisheterosexism, racism, classism, and ableism) combine, overlap, or intersect, especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups. How people access supports, including barriers that may prevent them from seeking supports are all impacted by their intersectional identities.

Indecent Exposure

The exposure of the private or intimate parts of the body in a lewd or sexual manner, in a public place, when the perpetrator may be readily observed. Indecent exposure includes exhibitionism.

Rape Culture

A culture which normalizes, trivializes and excuses sexual violence or blames survivors for having experienced sexual violence. It can be expressed through dominant societal ideas, prevalent attitudes, social practices, media content or through institutions which condone sexual violence either implicitly or explicitly.


When an individual who has experienced sexual violence informs The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education about their experience through a formal process that involves an expectation that formal action will be taken against the respondent.
A report includes particulars of the sexual violence (e.g. names, date, details of what occurred). Reports can be made internally to the University or externally to bodies such as police services, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, the Human Rights Commission or through civil actions.


The person whose actions are reported to constitute sexual violence.

Sexual Assault

Any sexual contact made by a person towards another where consent is not first obtained. It is characterized by a broad range of sexual acts, carried out in circumstances in which the person has not freely consented to or is incapable of consenting to sexual activity. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, sexual assault has been interpreted as an actual or threatened advance, gesture, touch, or any other sexual act to which an individual has not consented. It includes a person being forced to perform sexual acts against their will. It is determined by a lack of consent and not by the act itself.

Sexual Exploitation

Taking advantage of another person through non-consensual or abusive sexual control. This may include the digital or electronic broadcasting, distributing, recording and/or photographing of people involved in sexual acts without their consent.

Sexual Harassment

  • Unwanted sexual attention of a persistent or abusive nature, made by a person who knows or ought reasonably to know that such attention is unwanted.
  • The making of an implied or express promise of reward for complying with a sexually oriented request.
  • The making of an implied or express threat of reprisal, in the form of actual reprisal or the denial of opportunity, for refusal to comply with a sexually oriented request; and/or
  • Sexually oriented remarks and behaviour which may reasonably be perceived to create a negative psychological and emotional environment for work and study.

Sexual Violence

Any sexual act or act targeting a person’s sexuality, gender identity or gender expression, whether the act is physical or psychological in nature, that is committed, threatened, or attempted against a person without the person’s consent and includes sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, indecent exposure, voyeurism and sexual exploitation.

Sexual Violence Continuum

The sexual violence continuum is a visual representation of how rape culture operates within our society. The continuum depicts sexual violence as a range of behaviors, rather than a scale of bad to worse. It acknowledges that every type of sexual violence causes harm and continuously creates a culture where we normalize sexual violence (graphic)

The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education (The Centre) (formerly SVRO)

The York University office with primary responsibility to assist persons affected by sexual violence. The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education coordinates supports and resources for those who have experienced sexual violence, receives disclosures and complaints, facilitates safety planning, assists survivors through the complaint process, and provides training.

Sexual Violence Response Team (SVRT)

A group of York University personnel that ensures appropriate support and services are provided coordinates effective responses to incidents of sexual violence and conducts risk assessments related to sexual violence. The team is composed of representatives of The Centre for Sexual Violence Response, Support & Education, Community Safety Department, Office of Student Community Relations, Security Services, Student Counselling Services, Residence Life and, in cases involving faculty or staff, relevant Human Resources and/or Faculty Relations representatives.


Behaviours that occur on more than one occasion and which collectively instill fear in the person or threaten the person’s safety or mental health, or that of their family or friends. Stalking includes non-consensual communications (face to face, phone, email, social media); threatening or obscene conduct or gestures; surveillance and pursuit; and sending unsolicited gifts.

Support Person

A union representative, legal counsel, friend, relative or other person who accompanies an individual reporting sexual violence during the investigation and/or adjudication process.


Someone who has experienced sexual violence. (Although the term "survivor" is used throughout the Policy, the individual who has experienced sexual violence has the right to determine how they choose to identify and recognize their own experience.)

University Community Member

A student, staff, administrator, faculty member, librarian, member of the Board of Governors or Senate, adjunct or visiting faculty, postdoctoral fellow, volunteer, contractor or invited guest.


The surreptitious observing of a person without their consent and in circumstances where they could reasonably expect privacy. Voyeurism may include direct observation, observation by mechanical or electronic means, or visual recordings.

Workplace Sexual Harassment

  • Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, and/or
  • Making a sexual solicitation or advance where the person making the solicitation or advance is in a position to confer, grant or deny a benefit or advancement to the worker and the person knows or ought reasonably to know that the solicitation or advance is unwelcome.