Glossary of Terms

Sexual Harassment

(from Institutional Policies: Harassment including Sexual Harassment)

Sexual Harassment is a form of gender (sex) discrimination. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and or other verbal or written or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment occurs when (1) submission to sexual conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic progress, (2) submission to or rejection of sexual conduct influences employment or academic decisions (3) sexual conduct or communication interferes with an individual’s work performance or academic performance, or (4) sexual conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or academic environment.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault: any unwanted sexual contact that stops short of rape or attempted rape. This includes sexual touching and fondling. (However, be aware that some states use this term interchangeably with rape.)

Sexual Violence

Sexual violence (SV) is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone's will.

SV encompasses a range of offenses, including a completed nonconsensual sex act (i.e., rape), an attempted nonconsensual sex act, abusive sexual contact (i.e., unwanted touching), and non-contact sexual abuse (e.g., threatened sexual violence, exhibitionism, verbal sexual harassment).

These four types are defined in more detail below. All types involve victims who do not consent, or who are unable to consent or refuse to allow the act.

  • A completed sex act is defined as contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration, however slight; contact between the mouth and penis, vulva, or anus; or penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other object.
  • An attempted (but not completed) sex act
  • Abusive sexual contact is defined as intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person without his or her consent, or of a person who is unable to consent or refuse.
  • Non-contact sexual abuse does not include physical contact of a sexual nature between the perpetrator and the victim. It includes acts such as voyeurism; intentional exposure of an individual to exhibitionism; unwanted exposure to pornography; verbal or behavioral sexual harassment; threats of sexual violence to accomplish some other end; or taking nude photographs of a sexual nature of another person without his or her consent or knowledge, or of a person who is unable to consent or refuse.

—Source: Basile KC, Saltzman LE. Sexual violence surveillance: uniform definitions and recommended data elements version 1.0. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2002. Available from the CDC.

Gender or Sexual Discrimination

Gender discrimination, also known as sexual discrimination, is any action that specifically denies opportunities, privileges, or rewards to a person (or a group) because of gender. The practice of letting a person's gender become a factor when deciding who receives a job or a promotion, is gender discrimination. When gender is a factor in other decisions about employment opportunities or benefits, that too is gender discrimination.