Consent is the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of the person initiating or engaging in sexual activity to obtain clear and affirmative responses at all stages of sexual engagement.
Affirmative consent requires that a person is able to freely choose between two options: yes and no. This means that there must be an understandable exchange of affirmative words which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. The fact that consent was given in the past to a sexual or dating relationship does not mean that consent is deemed t exist for all further sexual activity.
For a more comprehensive breakdown of consent and when it can and cannot be obtained, you can refer to page 9 of the OurTurn National Action Plan , or check out these awesome resources : LSPIRG, consent beyond sex
For some really important resources on consent and Indigenous communities : Reclaim Turtle Island - Terra Nullius is Rape Culture and Land Body Defense - Violence on the Land, Violence on Our Bodies
Gag order / Confidentiality order
A judicial or nonjudicial prohibition against public disclosure or discussion of information related to a case or complaint. An inclusion of language that invokes a gag order in a policy is sometimes interpreted in a way that restricts survivors from getting needed support from their community (either persons or resources).
Examples of gag-order-like language in university sexual violence policies:
Acadia University Policy Against Harassment and Discrimination, Section F.5.1.: All members of the University community involved in any proceedings pursuant to this policy are expected to maintain confidentiality. A breach of confidentiality is a disservice to both the complainant and the respondent.
Carleton University Sexual Violence Policy, Section 8.5 (b): To ensure procedural fairness while a formal complaint process is underway, the Complainant, the Respondent and others who may have knowledge of the matter, including a support person, must maintain confidentiality in accordance with this Policy and not make public statements (for example: media, public and/ or social media statements) that may jeopardize the proper handling of the matter. The confidentiality obligations do not prevent a person from seeking counselling, treatment, support services or from speaking to friends and family. Any questions regarding confidentiality obligations under this Policy can be clarified by contacting the individual who receives the formal complaint.
Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the working, learning, or living environment, or leads to adverse consequences for the one directly subjected to the harassment.
An immunity clause in a university sexual violence policy ensures that a student will not be liable for discipline if they were drinking or doing drugs on campus when an assault occurred.
Exposing one’s body to another individual for a sexual purpose or coercing another individual to remove their clothing in order to expose their body without their consent
Intersectionality, first used by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is a concept used to understand how different systems of power and oppression work together to mediate an individual’s lived experiences. These systems include racism, classism, cis-sexism, homophobia, ableism, colonialism, and xenophobia among others. They are extremely interconnected and cannot be examined in isolation. Similarly, different aspects of an individual’s identity interact to influence their navigation, opportunities and experiences. (Link more resources)
A culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly or explicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse. Rape culture is a pervasive issue on Canadian campuses that facilitates sexual violence within post-secondary communities. (For more resources on rape culture check out these links : )
Example of an Acknowledgement of Rape Culture in a University policy
Ryerson University Sexual Violence Policy, Section V (2): The Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education will work with on and off-campus partners [...] to develop an annual education strategy that includes campaigns, training sessions, workshops, print and online resources, programs and events on a breadth of topics related to sexual violence on campus. These campaigns will explore topics such as rape culture, consent culture, sexual assault awareness, how to seek support, resources for survivors, advice and resources for first responders, etc. The audience for these efforts would include employees, students and visitors to our campus [...] Faculties and departments are encouraged to include education related to rape culture and sexual violence in course materials and program curriculum where appropriate. They are also encouraged to use trained facilitators who understand the sensitivity with which these topics must be raised, who have the skills to respond appropriately to disclosures and those who may be triggered by the content of the material or resulting discussions.
Rape shield protections
Rape shield protections limit the ability to introduce evidence or cross-examine complainants about their past sexual behaviour.
Sexual assault is any act of a sexual nature performed without the consent of the other person(s). This includes a range of behaviours, from unwanted kissing and touching to forced sexual intercourse (rape) and/or oral sex. Sexual assault is not about love or lust; it is about one person exerting power and control over another. Sexual assault can affect anyone. It can happen within marriage, common-law, dating or acquaintance relationships, or be perpetrated by an unknown person. Most survivors know the person who sexually assaults them. Those who have experienced acquaintance sexual assault often find it difficult to define their experience as sexual assault, or disclose what happened to them.
Sexual misconduct is a broad, umbrella term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation. Sexual misconduct can be committed by a person of any gender, and it can occur between people of the same or different gender. It includes a range of behaviours including sexual assault, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual intimidation. ‘Sexual Misconduct’ and ‘Sexual Violence’ are often used interchangeably, with the legal system favouring the language of ‘sexual misconduct’ and news media opting to use ‘sexual misconduct’ as a vague catchall term.
Sexual violence is an umbrella term that refers to a continuum of psychological or physical actions of a sexual nature that is threatened, attempted or committed towards a person without their consent. It may be directed towards a person’s sexual orientation, sexual or gender expression,or gender identity. It includes sexist, homophobic and/or transphobic jokes, coercion, stalking, voyeurism, cyberviolence, sexual harassment, interpersonal (or intimate partner) violence and sexual assault. Sexual violence is influenced by intersecting forms of oppression and discrimination, including but not limited to sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and classism
Legally, stalking is the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death especially because of express or implied threats. More broadly, a crime of engaging in a course of conduct directed at a person that serves no legitimate purpose and seriously alarms, annoys, or intimidates that person.
Stealthing is defined as nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse. Under Canadian law, there is no explicit prohibition of stealthing. However, there has been a growing recognition of stealthing as sexual violence and calls to explicitly criminalize the act. Stealthing “exposes victims [survivors] to physical risks of pregnancy and disease” and has been characterized by survivors as “disempowering, demeaning violation of a sexual agreement”.
Throughout this website and in our work, SFCC uses the term ‘survivor’. Everyone, regardless of their gender or other identities, can experience sexual violence and choose to self-identify as a survivor. However it is important to note that not everyone who has experienced sexual violence identifies as a survivor, and that any language they use is valid. It is also important to note that not all of us do survive the sexual violence that we’ve experienced, and it’s important that we include those folks in our advocacy work as well.
A survivor-centred approach requires all those who engage in sexual violence prevention and support programming to prioritize the rights, needs, and wishes of the survivor. We use the definition of a survivor-centered approach developed by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), which defines a survivor-centered approach as a method that “seeks to empower the survivor by prioritizing [their] rights, needs, and wishes”