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The terms in this glossary are defined in a way that informs Blackburn Center’s work.  The definitions are structured through the lens of gender-based violence.  


We intend for this glossary to be an invitation for dialogue, and an opportunity to identify new terms and concepts to include in this glossary.  Please email us if you have comments, questions, or suggestions.



A type of discrimination against people with disabilities based on the belief that having typical abilities is better. Ableism can take many forms, from choosing an inaccessible venue for a meeting to talking to a person with a disability like they are a child.


A person from a group with privilege who stands up in support of members of another group.   Typically, this is a member of a dominant group standing beside member(s) of a group being discriminated against or treated unjustly, using their position of privilege to call out behaviors of their dominant group.  It is important for allies to recognize that they do not have the life experience of the members of the group they are supporting, and so can never truly speak on behalf of this group.


The concept of being an ally is also important for individuals who come from the same group that is being discriminated against or treated unjustly.  For example, women may not automatically act as allies to other women if they are influenced by the dominant group – men – and align themselves with that power base.  Women may need to be reminded to offer support to other women, and to avoid blaming the person who was victimized and other negative reactions to women who have experienced trauma.


Benevolent Sexism

A covert form of sexism that frames women in a way that appears to be positive (as opposed to hostile sexism), while also reinforcing the status quo. This promotes the continued inequality of the sexes by over-valuing stereotypical male and female roles, and narrowing perceptions of acceptable characteristics and behaviors for both men and women.

Benevolent sexism comes from an idealization of traditional gender roles, which assumes that men and women are “naturally” gifted in different areas. It most often presents itself in assessments of women’s “natural gifts,” and therefore, appears to be positive and complimentary of women (e.g., women are naturally more nurturing), as well as in notions about how men and women “naturally” relate to one another (e.g., women need to be protected by men).  Protective paternalism is an example of benevolent sexism.



An adjective to describe the genders as female/male or woman/man. Since the binary genders are the only ones recognized by general society as being legitimate, they enjoy an (unfairly) privileged status. (



(as it relates to gender-based violence) A wide variety of behaviors, from physical intimidation to teasing to online harassment.  The crucial elements of bullying behavior are that it hurts another person physically or emotionally, the person being bullied has a hard time stopping the behaviors or defending themself, and there is an imbalance of power between the bully and the person being bullied.



A quality traditionally held by knights and gentlemen offering courage, honor and protection to women. Examples of chivalry include a man standing in front of his wife and child during a robbery or a man opening his date's car door for her to exit. (



A person whose gender identity and expression matches the gender typically associated with their biological sex. For example: someone who presents as female and identifies as a woman. (adapted from  In Latin, “cis-“ is opposite of the prefix “trans-“ and means “on the same side as”.


Cultural Norms 

Standards, expectations, ideas, and attitudes that are accepted and that guide behavior in a particular community or social group.  Cultural norms are transmitted through parents, friends, teachers, religious leaders, and others.


Equity vs. Equality  

Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful.  Equality is treating everyone the same.  Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Working towards equity rather than equality factors in the reality that people come from many different experiences and backgrounds. (



A set of attributes, behaviors and roles associated with women or girls.  It is a social construct based primarily on gender norms (see definition of gender norms), and is distinct from biological sex.  Standards of femininity vary across cultures and time.



An elaborate and devious technique of deception and psychological manipulation over an extended period of time. Its effect is to gradually undermine the victim’s confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance. The victim becomes pathologically dependent on the gaslighter for their thoughts and feelings. ( This is an extremely effective form of abuse that makes someone being abused more likely to stay in the abusive relationship. (



A set of cultural constructs describing characteristics that may historically be related to femininity, masculinity, women, men, or non-binary people, rather than sex, which is a set of characteristics associated with reproduction and biology. The term was coined in 1955 by sexologist John Money after noting the difference between gender and sex.  (


Gender-based violence  

A specific type of physical and emotional abuse, assault or harassment targeting a person's gender, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.  Gender-based violence includes intimate partner violence (including marital rape, sexual violence, and dowry/bride price-related violence), sexual assault (including sexual abuse of children and adolescents), stalking, sexual harassment, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, some types of bullying, and other forms of abuse (including feticide, honor crimes, early marriage, forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM)/cutting and other traditional practices harmful to women, and trafficking of girls and women). It is a pervasive form of violence that impacts every aspect of life.



  • Honor Crimes/Honor Killings: most often, the murder of a woman or girl by a male family member, justified by claims that the victim brought dishonor to the family (


  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM): all procedures involving partial or total removal of female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons such as cultural or religious practices (


Gender Expression/Presentation 

The physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. (typically referred to as masculine or feminine). Many transgender people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth. Someone with a nonconforming gender expression may or may not be transgender.  (


Gender Identity 

One's internal sense of being male, female, a blend of both, or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth (  While gender may begin with the assignment of our sex, it doesn’t end there. A person’s gender is the complex interrelationship between three dimensions:

  • Body: our body, our experience of our own body, how society genders bodies, and how others interact with us based on our body.

  • Identity: the name we use to convey our gender based on our deeply held, internal sense of self. 

  • Social: how we present our gender in the world and how individuals, society, culture, and community perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender.



Gender Norms 

Standards and expectations to which men and women generally conform, as defined by a society, culture and community within a particular time period.  Gender norms are ideas about how boys and girls, men and women should act and look.  They can be limiting and result in stereotyping and gender socialization (i.e., raising children to conform with the gender stereotypes of their sex assigned at birth).



Discrimination or prejudice against non-heteronormative people or relationships on the assumption that heterosexuality is the only “normal” sexual orientation.  It is “an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community” (Herek, G. M. [1990]. The context of anti-gay violence: Notes on cultural and psychological heterosexism. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 316-333, as cited in the UCDavis definition).

Examples of heterosexism include:


  • the continuing ban against lesbian and gay military personnel

  • widespread lack of legal protection from anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment, housing, and services

  • hostility to lesbian and gay committed relationships, recently dramatized by passage of federal and state laws against same-sex/same-gender marriage

  • the existence of sodomy laws in more than one-third of the states 


Homophobia is typically employed to describe individual anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes and behaviors, whereas heterosexism has referred to societal-level ideologies and patterns of institutionalized oppression of non-heterosexual people.





Thoughts, feelings or actions based on fear, dislike, judgment or hatred of lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Homophobia has roots in sexism and can include prejudice, discrimination, harassment and acts of violence. (

Types of Homophobia:


  • Institutional Homophobia: The ways in which government, business, churches and other organizations discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Examples include:

  • Policy or legislation that prevents same-sex couples from being able to adopt.

  • Ignoring sexual orientation as a category on data collection forms 

  • Being prevented from career opportunities or being fired from a job for being queer or being perceived as queer

  • Being prevented from taking a same-sex partner to a school dance or prom


  • Internalized Homophobia: The concept that LGBTQ+ people have adopted homophobic thoughts, beliefs and behaviors towards one another and themselves as a result of being socialized to do so.  Examples include:

  •     Making a determined effort to dress or act in such a way as to not appear to be gay.

  •     Having low self-esteem because of concerns around being gay or lesbian.

  •     A gay man discriminating against another gay man for acting “too feminine” or “too gay”.


  • Interpersonal Homophobia: Homophobic speech and or actions of an individual towards others who are, or who are perceived to be lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or queer. Examples include:

  • Violence, physical harassment, name calling, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes

  • Jokes that misrepresent or put down LGBTQ+ people.




Hostile Sexism

Openly misogynistic sexism. Hostile sexism often views gender equality as an attack on masculinity and seeks to suppress movements such as feminism; it is a belief that women are manipulative, angry, and seek to control men through seduction. (


Human Trafficking 

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring, or receipt of persons by means of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, or abuse of power of a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation.  Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to control the person they are victimizing, primarily for sexual exploitation and forced labor.  It is a form of modern slavery, and is considered to be one of the fastest growing criminal industries in the world. 

Institutional (Violence)

Institutional:  Of, relating to, or characteristic of an institution or establishment (Merriam Webster). 

Institutional violence:  Like interpersonal forms of violence, institutional forms include physically or emotionally abusive acts. However, institutional forms of violence are usually, but not always, impersonal: that is to say, almost any person from the targeted group will do. Abuses or assaults that are practiced by corporate bodies—groups, organizations, or even a single individual on behalf of others—include those forms of violence that over time have become “institutionalized,” such as war, racism, sexism, terrorism, and so on. (SAGE,


Institutional Misogyny 

A gender inequity within institutions and systems of power, such as places of employment, government agencies and human services.  It can take the form of unfair policies and practices, discriminatory treatment and inequitable opportunities and outcomes.  (adapted from Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide)  A common example in a place of employment is the rate at which men are promoted compared to women.


Internalized Misogyny 

The concept that women and girls have adopted misogynistic thoughts, beliefs and behaviors towards one another and themselves as a result of being socialized to do so.  Examples include women:


  • Believing that a woman is not fit to be President because women are too emotional.

  • Defining themselves with the phrase “I’m not like other women.”

  • Judging women on their decision to have – or not to have – children.

  • Making excuses for men who abuse women.



Incorporating others’ (typically negative) values, beliefs, behaviors, and/or attitudes into one’s own self-worth or self-image, so that that they are reproduced in that person’s behavior and ideas and become part of their identity.  (See internalized misogyny, internalized homophobia, etc.)


Interpersonal (Violence)

Interpersonal: something involving, or occurring among, several people (

Interpersonal violence:  Violence between individuals, subdivided into family and intimate partner violence and community violence. The former category includes child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, and elder abuse; while the latter is broken down into acquaintance and stranger violence and includes youth violence, sexual assault by acquaintances or strangers, assault by strangers, violence related to property crimes, and violence in workplaces and other institutions. 




Merriam Webster defines intersectionality as “the complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine, overlap, or intersect”.   Discrimination doesn’t exist in isolation – different kinds of prejudice can be amplified in different ways when experienced together.


The concept of intersectionality was introduced by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, who used it to describe how different types of discrimination interact and overlap — making it necessary for feminists to understand and consider the needs of women from different backgrounds.  Although the term was originally about race and gender, it has expanded to include other factors, such as disability, sexual orientation, nationality and socioeconomic status. 


In looking at women’s rights through this lens, intersectionality means that people who care about women’s rights cannot (or should not) be concerned exclusively with issues related to gender.  Instead, they must look at a broad array of issues that impact women.  For example, if a movie is both degrading to women and demeaning to people of color, people must speak out against both the misogyny and the racism in the movie.  Focusing only on gender misses many of the problems facing women of color, LGBTQ+ women, poor women, and women with disabilities.  Speaking out on behalf of women and advocating for equality requires doing so for ALL women — which means understanding and incorporating the issues facing all women.


Intimate Partner Violence

(also referred to as domestic violence) Physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former intimate partner or spouse.  It may include:


  • Destruction of Property/Pets: The destruction of property or pets may be another way that a person who batters is abusive.  The destruction of the objects may also carry the message, "This time it's the car or the china; next time I could hurt you.”

  • Physical: This is the most overt form of battering and includes pushing, hitting, beating, inflicting injury with weapons, homicide, and suicide.

  • Psychological: Characterized as "brainwashing" or “gaslighting,” a person's self-worth is destroyed through harassment, threats, psychological manipulation, or deprivation of food and sleep.

  • Reproductive Coercion: This type of abuse can include threats or acts of violence against a partner's reproductive health or reproductive decision-making and is a collection of behaviors intended to pressure or coerce a partner into becoming a parent or ending a pregnancy. 

  • Sexual: When one spouse/partner forces unwanted sexual contact on the other spouse/partner, it is considered sexual assault.  

  • Verbal/Emotional: This type of abuse includes non-physical behavior such as insults, threats, constant monitoring or checking in, humiliation, isolation, intimidation and stalking.



The process of pairing and ordering all the chromosomes of an organism, thus providing a genome-wide snapshot of an individual's chromosomes.  This is not a standard test.  It is typically done if there is a concern about genetic abnormalities.  (



A person or group or persons treated as insignificant, powerless, peripheral, or otherwise excluded from the dominant cultural group because of the former’s belief system, sexual orientation, religion, or other identity.



A set of attributes, behaviors and roles associated with men or boys.  It is a social construct based primarily on gender norms (see definition of gender norms), and is distinct from biological sex. Standards of masculinity vary across cultures and time.



A brief and subtle but offensive comment or action directed at a member of a non-dominant (or marginalized) group.  This is an intentional or unintentional communication of hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.  The comments consciously or unconsciously reinforce a stereotype.  For example, asking where a person of color is from and not accepting that they are American is a racial micro-aggression because it presumes that a person of color cannot be American/born and raised in the United States. (  There are different forms of micro-aggression:


  • Micro-assaults: The use of explicit, verbal and nonverbal derogatory remarks. For example, a professor making Islamophobic comments during a lecture with Muslim students present. 

  • Micro-insults: The subtle remarks about a person’s minoritized identities that are insensitive, demeaning and rude. An example is the description of a Latina woman as “spicy,” which culturally and sexually objectifies her.

  • Micro-invalidations: The experience that excludes, negates, and nullifies a person’s experiences, thoughts or feelings based upon their membership in a marginalized group. For instance, an individual stating, “I can’t be racist! My best friend is black,” is a logic that suggests they are allowed to be racist because of the friendship and assumed understanding of that person’s struggle.





An extreme form of sexism often defined as the hatred of women.  A society in which misogyny is prevalent has high rates of brutality against women – for example, in the forms of domestic violencerape, and the commodification of women and their bodies.  Where they are seen as property or as second-class citizens, women are often mistreated at the individual as well as the institutional level.  For example, a woman who is a victim of rape (the individual or personal level) might be told by a judge and jury (the institutional level) that she was culpable because of the way she was dressed. (adapted from  A person may not be aware they are demonstrating a hatred towards women or even believe they hate women, but their behavior or words expose their prejudice, hostility and disdain of women.  Other forms of oppression in society – such as homophobia or transphobia – have roots in misogyny.


However, Cornell philosophy professor Kate Manne argues that misogyny is not about male hostility or hatred towards women, but rather is about controlling and punishing women who challenge male dominance.  In this view, misogyny rewards women who reinforce the status quo and punishes those who don’t.  





A social system in which men hold the primary control and dominate positions of power in politics, corporate governance, moral authority, and social privilege.  The patriarchy values masculinity over femininity.  Patriarchy is expressed in a number of ways, such as in media, where women are either hyper-sexualized or degraded, in pay inequality, in blaming the person who was victimized, and in boys being told not to cry or express emotions.



Efforts intended to stop the perpetration of unhealthy, harmful, dangerous, and illegal behavior and acts, as well as victimization and re-victimization by others. Public health sources define prevention on three levels of intervention in a social and/or health problem, based on when the intervention is used in targeting prevention of problems.


  • Primary Prevention: approaches that are employed before any type of gender-based violence has occurred, to prevent initial victimization. Primary prevention includes the development of an environment that encourages well-being, safety, healthy choices and perpetrator accountability; and that addresses the root causes of gender-based violence. Primary prevention can be directed toward either “universal” or “selected” audiences. “Universal” reflects strategies aimed at everyone in the population of interest, independent of risk. “Selected” denotes strategies directed toward those in the population at increased risk for gender-based violence perpetration or victimization.


  • Secondary Prevention: an immediate response after gender-based violence has been perpetrated. Secondary prevention deals with the short-term consequences of violence; it attempts to reduce the harm to the person who was victimized in the immediate aftermath of the violence (e.g., separating the person who was victimized and the person who perpetrated that victimization; providing immediate crisis counseling for the person who was victimized), and to locate, contain, and address the perpetrators.


  • Tertiary Prevention: a long-term response after gender-based violence perpetration. Tertiary prevention addresses the lasting consequences of victimization (e.g., by providing ongoing counseling for victims) and the provision of specialized offender treatment and management to the perpetrators of gender-based violence to reduce the possibility of re-offense.





The access to resources that are only readily available to some people because of their status or the social group they belong to; an advantage or protection that one societal group has above and beyond the common advantage of all other groups. Privilege is often invisible to those who have it.  In the context of gender-based violence, privilege is not associated with wealth, but with social power, which includes access to resources that improves a person’s ability to get what they  need in order to live a comfortable, safe, and productive life.


For example, a person may experience privilege as a man because he is more easily able to access social status than a woman.  A person who identifies as heterosexual has privilege because they are given resources and status above and beyond those offered to LGBTQ+ people.




For men, internalized privilege can involve feeling a sense of superiority and entitlement, or holding negative beliefs about women.  (adapted from Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide)


Protective Paternalism  

An attitude or practice that is perceived as an infringement on the personal freedom and autonomy of a person (or class of persons) with a beneficial or protective intent (e.g., laws that mandate seat belt use).  Protective paternalism tells men that they need to protect women and make decisions on their behalf.  (see “Chivalry”)  Rather than viewing women as autonomous, fully capable human beings, men who subscribe to protective paternalism tend to view women as weak and in need of their protection.  On the surface, this may be seen by some as a positive thing: it can be comforting to think of someone else taking responsibility for the difficult decisions in life.   In practice, it holds women back from leading full lives.  When women and girls are viewed as weak and incapable of taking care of themselves, they are often prevented from doing basic things like driving, getting jobs, or (in extreme cases) even going for walks on their own — all while men and boys are permitted to move about freely and strive for their goals without these restrictions.


While protective paternalism may seem benign, it has the effect of holding women back in a very real way. When it comes to gender-based violence, protective paternalism seems to make the argument that domestic and sexual violence are wrong because they are an assault on something that belongs to a man — not because violence against anyone is wrong. When gender-based violence is viewed through this lens, it defines the value of the female who has been victimized exclusively based on her relationship to a man. In this way, protective paternalism devalues women as human beings in their own right. 


Attitudes of protective paternalism also prevent men from seeing women as equals.  After all, if a woman is in need of protection and care, then she cannot possibly be on equal footing with a man.  When women are viewed as objects or possessions to be protected by men, they are seen as less than equal. If a man does not consider his partner to be equal in the relationship, he is more likely to resort to violence or aggression if his partner is not acting in an “appropriate” manner.  In this way, protective paternalism can directly lead to gender-based violence.





An umbrella identity term encompassing lesbians, questioning people, gay men, bisexuals, non-labeling people, transgender folks, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual. Still considered derogatory by many, it is being reclaimed and used as a statement of empowerment. 

Some people identify as queer to distance themselves from the rigid categorization of “straight” and “gay”. Some transgender, lesbian, gay, questioning, non-labeling, and bisexual people, however, reject the use of this term due to its connotations of deviance and its tendency to gloss over and sometimes deny the differences between groups.




Rape Culture  

An environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is tolerated, normalized and excused. This attitude towards sexual violence impacts all aspects of society, including personal relationships, the criminal justice system, healthcare systems, media, popular culture, the workplace, and educational institutions.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards the rights and safety of women and girls and other marginalized groups.


Examples of rape culture include, but are not limited to:

  • Blaming the person who was victimized (“they asked for it!”)

  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)

  • Sexually explicit or rape jokes and the people who defend them

  • Using different mediums (such as social media, images, music, or language) to share or use images, comments, or language to perpetuate blaming or shaming of the person who was victimized

  • Tolerance of sexual harassment

  • Inflating false rape report statistics

  • Publicly scrutinizing the dress, mental state, motives, and history of the person who was victimized

  • Gratuitous gendered violence in music, movies, and television

  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive

  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive

  • Pressure on men to “score”

  • Pressure on women not to appear “cold”, while at the same time not to appear “easy”

  • Assuming only “promiscuous” women get raped

  • Assuming that men don’t get raped or that only “weak” men get raped

  • Refusing to take rape accusations seriously

  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped

  • Trivializing the experience of men being raped in prison

  • Assuming that rape doesn’t happen in same-sex/same-gender relationships





A set of characteristics associated with reproduction and biology that generally assign individuals into categories of “male” and “female.” The distinction between sex and gender is becoming complicated as more trans people see their sex and gender identity as being the same. Some reject the more traditional/scientific definitions of sex and adopt a fluid definition of sex and gender. For example, a trans woman may identify both her gender and sex as female even though she has a penis. See also “sex assigned at birth.” (  


Sex Assigned at Birth 

The assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex assigned at birth is based on physical anatomy at birth and/or karyotyping. Many trans people believe distinguishing between sex and gender is oppressive and “othering.”  Because they had no choice in the sex they were assigned at birth, they may relate more closely to a gender identity and consider their biological characteristics to be normal for their gender or gender identity. (  



Attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles. It can result in discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex or gender, especially against women and girls. Many argue that systemic sexism has resulted in ingrained and institutionalized prejudice against or hatred of women:  misogyny.  Sexism can be a belief that one sex is superior to or more valuable than another sex.


Ambivalent sexism is a theory which suggests that sexism has two sub-components: "hostile sexism" and "benevolent sexism".   Hostile and benevolent sexism are described above.  (;


Sexual Agency 

“Agency” refers to one’s ability to make one’s own choices and behave in a way that produces the results one desires. Sexual agency specifically refers to knowing what one does and does not want sexually and having the ability and control to act accordingly. It includes:


  • The ability to say no to, to say yes to (i.e., give consent), or to change one’s mind about participating in sexual activities.

  • The right to choose how to define one’s sexual identity (e.g., gay, straight, bi-sexual) and to choose one’s gender (male, female, or something else along the spectrum). 

  • The right and ability to make choices regarding safe sex and birth control.

  • Being free from threats, harassment, and concerns (e.g., safety, survival, or other concerns) in making choices about whether or not to participate in any form of sexual expression.


Whether or not sex work (e.g., topless dancing, prostitution) can be considered “legitimate work,” resulting from women’s choices and sexual agency, is a subject of debate. Many view sex work as sexual exploitation and a product of patriarchal and capitalistic pressure which should, therefore, be abolished. However, others believe that perspective victimizes sex workers, and instead view them as individuals who are empowered to choose to use their “property” (i.e., their bodies, their sexual orientation) for economic gain, as one might exchange any other goods or services for payment.


In a society where women are often objectified and sexualized, it can be difficult to determine what choices are being made due to the pressures of our culture or because of an individual's choice/sexual agency.  For example, if a woman chooses to participate in sex work by dancing at a topless bar, she may be doing so as a way to express herself sexually.  Alternatively, she may have taken this job because she believed that her other choices to support herself were limited. In other situations, a person may make a personal choice -- free from societal influence or pressures -- to dress in a certain way, demonstrating a level of sexual agency.


Other types of sex work may or may not involve sexual agency.  While there are individuals who choose to engage in sex work (commonly referred to as prostitution), millions of women, children and men around the world are subject to human trafficking for sexual slavery each year. Generally, individuals who truly choose to engage in sex work do so from a place of relative privilege, compared to those who may participate in sex work in order to survive or who are forced into it.  The level of sexual agency involved in sex work will depend on each individual person. 




Sexual Assault 

An overarching term for a wide variety of behaviors (listed below as commonly used).  The perpetrator can be a stranger, an intimate partner, an acquaintance, or a family member.

  • Rape: This type of sexual assault typically includes sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration carried out against a person without that person's consent. The perpetrator may use physical force, coercion, or abuse of authority.  A rape may be perpetrated against a person who is not able to give valid consent, such as someone who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.

  • Child Sexual Abuse: This can take many forms. It can include touching children inappropriately, exposing them to pornography, encouraging them to act or speak sexually (in-person or on the internet), engaging in sexual acts with them or in their presence, and filming, videotaping or photographing children engaged in, or pretending to engage in, sexual activity.

  • Incest: Child sexual abuse that is perpetrated by a family member.  Note that the term “abuse” is typically used to describe behavior towards children, not adults.

  • Date Rape: This is a rape in which there has been some sort of romantic or potentially sexual relationship between the two parties.  It can involve the use of alcohol and other drugs to impair the person who was victimized.

  • Statutory Rape: This is when a person engages in sexual intercourse with another person who is between 13 and 16 years old, AND when the perpetrator is four or more years older than this person, AND the parties are not married.

  • Marital or Partner Rape: When rape is perpetrated by one spouse/partner against the other.  Note:  this was not a crime in PA until the 1980s. 

  • Sexual Exploitation: This includes a range of sexual uses of people for utilitarian purposes, including sexual objectification, sexual assault, pornography, prostitution, and sex trafficking.  It involves actual or attempted acts against an individual who is in a position of vulnerability or with differential power.

  • Forced or Unwanted Sexual Contact:  This is forced or coerced kissing and touching through clothing or direct contact of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person.

  • Sexual Harassment: Bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors.  It can include unwanted sexual statements (such as dirty jokes), unwanted personal attention (such as telephone calls or pressure for dates), and unwanted physical or sexual advances (such as hugging, kissing or fondling). Importantly, sexual harassment isn’t limited by gender, or by sexual orientation; both men and women can experience sexual harassment.     

  • Exposure: This is intentionally displaying one's genitals in public, for the sexual gratification of the perpetrator or to elicit a sexual response.

  • Voyeurism: This is an interest in, or practice of spying on people engaged in sexually intimate behaviors, undressing, or other actions typically considered to be of a private nature.


Sexual Identity  

A comprehensive concept made up of four components:  biological sex, gender identity, social sex-role (a range of behaviors and attitudes that are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for a person based on that person's biological or perceived sex), and sexual orientation.


Sexual Orientation 

A person’s physical, romantic, emotional, aesthetic, and/or other form of attraction to others.  Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same.  (  



A person repeatedly watching, following or harassing another person, making them feel afraid or unsafe. A stalker can be known to the person they victimized, such as a past boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a stranger. While the actual legal definition varies by state, here are some examples of what stalkers may do:


  • Show up at the home or place of work of the person they are victimizing, unannounced or uninvited.

  • Send the person they are victimizing unwanted text messages, letters, emails and voicemails.

  • Leave unwanted items, gifts or flowers.

  • Constantly call the person they are victimizing and hang up.

  • Spread rumors about the person they are victimizing via the internet or word of mouth.

  • Make unwanted phone calls to the person they are victimizing.

  • Call an employer or professor of the person they are victimizing.

  • Wait at places the person they are victimizing hangs out.

  • Use other people as resources to investigate the life of the person they are victimizing. For example, looking at their Facebook page through someone else’s page or befriending their friends in order to get more information about them.

  • Damage to the home, car or other property of the person they are victimizing.


Structural Misogyny  

Misogyny across institutions and society. It describes the cumulative and compounding effects of an array of factors that systematically privilege men and disadvantage women.  This is a process that is not always intentional. (adapted from Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide)


Systemic Misogyny  

A dynamic system that produces and replicates gender ideologies, identities and inequities. Systemic misogyny is the well-institutionalized pattern of discrimination that cuts across major political, economic and social organizations in a society. Public attention to misogyny or sexism is generally focused on the symptoms (such as a sexist slur by an individual) rather than the system of gender inequality.  (adapted from Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race Equity and Inclusion Action Guide)


Toxic Masculinity

(sometimes referred to as hyper-masculinity)  A narrow, extreme, and stereotypical representation of masculinity, emphasizing physical strength, aggression, the repression of vulnerable emotions (e.g., sadness, fear), sexual orientation, and the need to be dominant. It oversimplifies the differences between men and women, inflicting a strict dichotomy between masculine and feminine to the point where exhibiting any attribute considered to be female is believed to completely negate a man’s masculinity. 


Toxic masculinity is rooted in the belief that “manhood” or “manliness” must be earned and requires external validation in the form of meeting “masculine” criteria (e.g., physical strength) while also strictly avoiding characteristics or behaviors considered feminine (e.g., crying). As manhood must be earned, it is something that can be lost or taken away by failure to conform to masculine norms. The impact of these behaviors and attitudes makes toxic masculinity harmful to men and boys, as well as to women and girls. 




Toxic masculinity IS:

  • The belief that only men are capable of being leaders.

  • The feeling that the advancement of women is a loss for men.

  • A belief that men are innately superior to women.

  • The use of aggression as a go-to means for problem solving and conflict resolution.

  • The suppression of any emotion other than anger and aggression.

  • The idea that any vulnerability is a sign of weakness.

  • The need to be dominant or superior to women (e.g., in intellect, status, earning power).


Toxic masculinity is NOT:

  • A desire to provide for one’s family.

  • Acts of heroism.

  • A strong work ethic.

  • A desire to be protective of friends and family.

  • Independence.

  • Assertiveness.

  • Courage.

  • Leadership.


The impact of toxic masculinity is often exaggerated for people of color, particularly Black men.  It may be linked to slavery, as being strong and unemotional were desired traits for enslaved men. This perception of Black men has persisted as a harmful stereotype, as they are both expected to be feared for appearing highly masculine and aggressive. (


Toxic masculinity also affects the LGBTQ+ community, as those whose behavior and appearance conform with traditional masculinity are typically less marginalized than others. Toxic masculinity in the gay community is based on stigmatizing and subjugating people who present as feminine, queer men of color, and trans men through body norms, body shaming, racism and transphobia. (



An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth.  This is the opposite of cisgender.  Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation.  Trans people can be straight, bisexual, lesbian, gay, asexual, pansexual, bisexual, queer, etc.  For example, a trans woman who is exclusively attracted to other women could identify as lesbian. (


  • FTM: A person who transitions from "female-to-male," meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male, regardless of surgical or medical interventions. Also known as a “transgender man.”


  • MTF: A person who transitions from "male-to-female," meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female, regardless of surgical or medical interventions.  Also known as a “transgender woman.”




Thoughts, feelings, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgment, discomfort or hatred of transgender individuals, those thought to be transgender, or those whose gender expression doesn’t conform to gender roles. Transphobia exists within the LGBTQ+ community as well.  For example, some who identify as lesbian and gay can be as transphobic as straight people.

Transphobia can take many different forms, including:

  • negative attitudes and beliefs

  • aversion to and prejudice against transgender people

  • irrational fear and misunderstanding

  • disbelief of or discounting preferred pronouns or gender identity

  • derogatory language and name-calling

  • bullying, abuse and even violence


Transphobia can create both subtle and overt forms of discrimination.  For example, people who are transgender (or even just thought to be transgender) may be denied jobs, housing, or health care, just because they’re transgender.


People may hold transphobic beliefs if they were taught them by other people, including parents and other family members, who encourage negative ideas about trans people and who hold strict beliefs about traditional gender roles.  Some people are transphobic because they have misinformation or have no information at all about trans identities.  They may not be aware of transgender people or trans issues or personally know anyone who is trans.



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