If you’re anything like us, you know words matter.
For example, in our children’s book, Every Body Talk, we teach children to use the technical words “penis” and “vagina” because using correct terminology is protective. If children are able to directly communicate about their bodies and talk to trusted adults, there’s a better chance of them being protected from sexual assault and violence.
Terminology isn’t just important for children though. If adults are on the same page about what constitutes sexual assault, harassment, and violence and the differences between them, we can build a safer world. Check out this list of terminology that regularly comes up in sexual assault prevention work.
The Sexual Violence Umbrella: Terminology (terms contain graphic descriptions):
Sexual Violence: An all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse. Sexual violence is accomplished through threat, coercion, exploitation, deceit, force, physical or mental incapacitation, and/or power of authority.
Forms of sexual violence include:
- Rape or sexual assault
- Child sexual assault and incest
- Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner
- Unwanted sexual contact/touching
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual exploitation and trafficking
- Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent
- Masturbating in public
- Watching someone engage in private acts without their knowledge or permission
- Nonconsensual image sharing
Consent: Words or overt actions by a person who is legally or functionally competent to give informed approval, indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact.
Sexual Harassment: is an umbrella term for any unwelcome comment, action, or behavior of a sexual nature. Harassing comments include catcalling, inappropriate/unwanted comments about a person’s body or sexual orientation, slut-shaming, and explicit and unwanted jokes.
Sexual Exploitation: Non-Consensual or abusive sexual advantage for one’s own benefit or the benefit of another.
Sexual Trafficking: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.
Non-consensual sexual contact: Intentional touching of intimate parts or causing someone to touch one’s intimate parts.
Sexual intimidation: Threatening to sexually assault another, stalking, indecent exposure.
Rape: Non-Consensual penetration of the victim’s body (vaginal, anal, or oral penetration).
Stalking: Acting in a way that would cause a person to fear for their safety.
Dating Violence: Violence committed by a person in a romantic relationship.
Child Sexual Abuse: Any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member. Sexual abuse includes allowing or encouraging a child to engage in obscene photography, films, poses, or similar activity; pornographic photography, films, poses, or similar activity; or prostitution; human trafficking; incest; rape; sexual offense in any degree; sodomy; and unnatural or perverted sexual practices.
Sexual grooming: Involves an abuser befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to prepare a child for sexual abuse.
Sexual Assault: Sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. This can include attempted rape, fondling/unwanted sexual touching, incest, statutory rape, or penetration of the victim’s body (rape).
- Rape and attempted rape
- Unwanted touching or groping
- Sexual harassment
- Unwanted showing of private parts
- Sexual exploitation
- Child sexual abuse
- Sexual coercion
- Sexually obscene communications (in person, by phone, texting, email, or social networking)
Every person is unique and may respond differently to being sexually assaulted. However, it is important to know that after a sexual assault you may experience:
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Fear and social isolation
- A decrease or increase in appetite
- Sleeplessness or nightmares
- Depression and withdrawal
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Relationship problems
- Physical ailments, headaches, stomach aches, and other pain
- Thoughts of suicide
Sexual Assault can happen to anyone at any time, no matter how old you are, what you look like, what you wear, or what you do. Offenders can be strangers, but most often they are friends, family members or acquaintances that we thought we could trust.
Disclaimer: *There are varied forms and definitions of sexual assault that fall under the umbrella of sexual violence, every person is unique and experiences things differently. If you have experienced sexual assault, it was NOT your fault. Help is available to you. You are not alone.*
If you are experiencing any of these reactions, you are not alone. Advocates at your local Rape Crisis and Recovery Centers are available 24 hours a day to provide support. Click here to find your local center.
Terms provided by the Maryland State Department of Education
The Teacher Talk Program & #ICANHELP Content is informed by the Erin Levitas Initiative for Sexual Assault Prevention at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. The content of the Teacher Talk Program was adapted by Laurie M. Graham, PhD, from her CREATES: Creating Respectful Environments and Teaching and Encouraging Safety sexual violence prevention curriculum for presentation as the Teacher Talk program. The adaptation of the official program will be completed with consultation and contributions from Chimi Boyd-Keyes, MA, and Quince Hopkins, JD, LLM, JSD.