This Glossary provides a central place to find the meaning of key terms in Gender-Based Violence (GBV) work and to access resources for further learning. It will grow and change as the GBV field does. If you find a term should be added or revised, please contact us at gbvln@uwo.ca

You can view the terms associated with a letter by selecting the letter below. Crossed out letters do not have any terms.


Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a “person-centered approach that seeks to reduce the health, social, and structural harms associated with substance use.” [1] It is an approach that supports the dignity and respect of people who use substances and works to address institutional stigma and discrimination. [1]

Harm reduction approaches need to incorporate a gender lens since there are many broader determinants of women’s health (e.g. poverty, mothering, violence, and social policies) that intersect with women’s substance use. [2]

Learn More:


[1] Women & HIV/AIDS Initiative. (n.d.) Women & Harm Reduction. Retrieved from


[2] Poole, N., Urquhart, C., & Talbot, C. (2010). Women-Centred Harm Reduction. Gendering the

National Framework Series, 4. British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health.

Retrieved from https://cewh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/2010_GenderingNatFrameworkWomencentredHarmReduction.pdf


“Persistent, ongoing behavior conveying negative attitudes towards an individual or group to make them feel intimidated and humiliated. Harassment is an exercise of power. It includes any action that a person knows, or should know, is not welcome. Harassment includes name-calling, jokes, slurs, graffiti, insults, threats, rudeness and crude gestures, verbal or physical abuse. Human Rights Codes in most provinces prohibit harassment based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity and the other prohibited grounds for discrimination.” [1]

For legal definition of Harassment, see “Criminal Harassment.”

Learn More:


[1] Springtide Resources. (2008). An integrated anti-oppression framework for reviewing and developing policy: A toolkit for community service organizations. Retrieved from http://www.oaith.ca/assets/files/Publications/Intersectionality/integrated-tool-for-policy.pdf


Hate Crime

“Criminal acts which promote hatred against identifiable groups of people, motivated by bias, prejudice or hate. Although individuals and groups that promote this destructive form of human rights-based discrimination often defend their right to ‘free speech,’ it is a criminal offense to disseminate hate propaganda and/or to commit hate crimes.” [1]

Under the Canadian Criminal Code, both the “public incitement of hatred” and the “willful promotion of hatred” are considered crimes punishable by law. [2]


[1] The 519. (n.d.). Glossary of terms. Retrieved from http://www.the519.org/education-training/glossary

[2] Criminal Code R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, S. 319.  Government of Canada. Retrieved from https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-46/section-319.html

Healing Centered Engagement

“A healing centered approach is holistic involving culture, spirituality, civic action and collective healing. A healing centered approach views trauma not simply as an individual isolated experience, but rather highlights the ways in which trauma and healing are experienced collectively. The term healing centered engagement expands how we think about responses to trauma and offers more holistic approach to fostering well-being.” [1]

Learn More:


[1] Adoption Council of Ontario. (n.d.). More about developmental trauma. Retrieved from https://www.adoption.on.ca/developmental-trauma/about

Health Effects

The effects of violence on a victim's physical and psychological health are severe. “In addition to the immediate injuries from the assault, victims display increased risk for chronic pelvic pain, genitourinary problems, gastrointestinal distress, somatiziation disorder, substance abuse, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Women who are abused also display an increased risk of unplanned or early pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Interpersonal forms of trauma can also impact many aspects of a victim’s psychological health leading to negative psychological health outcomes. Victims are at risk for depleted self-esteems, trouble forming relationships, PTSD, depression, panic disorder, chronic stress, insomnia, suicide ideation, and anxiety. Victims also often engage in avoidance behaviors to cope with difficult feelings including substance abuse, eating disorders, or self-harm.” [1]

Learn More:


[1] Women's College Hospital. (n.d.). Mental health signs and symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealthmatters.ca/health-centres/mental-health/trauma/signs-and-symptoms

Health Equity

Health equity is the “absence of unfair systems and policies that cause health inequalities.” [1]

It seeks to reduce inequalities in the health status of individuals and to increase access to opportunities and resources for all to reach their fullest health potential. [1]

Health inequity “refers to health inequalities that are unfair or unjust and modifiable.” [1] One example is Canadians who live in remote or Northern regions and who do not have the same access to a variety of nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables as other Canadians.

Learn More:

Backgrounder: “More Exposed And Less Protected” In Canada: Systemic Racism And COVID-19 – Learning Network

Backgrounder: COVID-19 & Gender-based Violence in Canada:  Key Issues and Recommendations – Learning Network

Webinar: Supporting Black Survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Addressing Anti-Black Racism and Building Survivor-Led, Trauma-Informed, Cross-Sectoral Solutions to TBI – Learning Network and Knowledge Hub


[1] Government of Canada. (2023). Social determinants of health and health inequalities. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/population-health/what-determines-health.html

Health Promotion

“Health promotion is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. To reach a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, an individual or group must be able to identify and to realize aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to change or cope with the environment. Health is, therefore, seen as a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living. Health is a positive concept emphasizing social and personal resources, as well as physical capacities. Therefore, health promotion is not just the responsibility of the health sector, but goes beyond healthy life-styles to well-being.” [1]

Learn More:


[1] World Health Organization. (n.d.). The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/healthpromotion/conferences/previous/ottawa/en/

Healthy Relationships

“When people are in healthy relationships, they feel valued, respected, and treated like equals.” [1] “Healthy relationships allow both partners to feel supported and connected but still feel independent. Communication and boundaries are the two major components of a healthy relationship. Ultimately, the two people in the relationship decide what is healthy for them and what is not.  If something doesn’t feel right, you should have the freedom to voice your concerns to your partner.” [2]


[1] METRAC. (2007, May). Building Healthy, Equal Relationships. 

[2] The National Domestic Violence Hotline. (n.d.). What is a Healthy Relationship? Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/healthy-relationships/


Social systems “in which heterosexuality and patriarchy are perceived as normal and natural, and in which other configurations are perceived as abnormal, aberrant, and abhorrent.” [1] These systems rely on “very narrow definitions of the male/female binary, in which the male gender is perceived as strong, capable, wise, and composed and the female gender is perceived as weak, incompetent, naïve, and confused.” [1]

Indigenous scholars and activists have drawn particular attention to the way that the naturalization of heteropatriarchy facilitates the broader settler-colonial project. [1, 2]

Because heteropatriarchy imposes itself upon the political orders, thought, agency, self-determination, and freedom “of Indigenous bodies,” it also operates as a violent and “dispossessing force.”  It therefore attacks all genders and sexualities of Indigenous people, as well as Indigenous peoples’ claims to land. [3]


[1] Arvin, M., Tuck, E., & Morrill, A. (2013). “Decolonizing feminism: Challenging connections between settler colonialism and heteropatriarchy.” Feminist Formations. 25(1), 8-34. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/504601

[2] Hokowhitu, B. (2016). “Excerpt from Indigenous Men and Masculinities.”  Retrieved from https://uofmpress.ca/blog/entry/excerpt-from-indigenous-men-and-masculinties-brendan-hokowhitu

[3] Simpson, L. B. (2017). As we have always done: Indigenous freedom through radical resistance. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN. P. 52.


“The assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior and preferable. The result is discrimination against bisexual, lesbian and gay people that is less overt, and which may be unintentional and unrecognized by the person or organization responsible for the discrimination.” [1]

Learn More:


[1] The 519. (n.d.). The 519 glossary of terms. Retrieved from http://www.the519.org/education-training/glossary


“A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own.” [1] Sometimes referred to as “straight.”


[1] Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Centre. (n.d.). Terminology: General definitions. University of California San Francisco. Retrieved from https://lgbt.ucsf.edu/glossary-terms


Homelessness refers to “the situation of an individual or family without stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means, and ability of acquiring it.”[1] Homelessness could be visible (e.g. sleeping outside, staying at an emergency shelter), hidden (e.g. sleeping at a friend’s house, engaging in survival sex in exchange for housing), or it could be that the housing is unaffordable, inaccessible, and/or unsafe. [2]

Violence (e.g. intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child maltreatment) and discrimination (e.g. anti-Indigenous discrimination, homophobia, transphobia) contributes to homelessness. Homelessness also increases vulnerability to experiencing violence.

Learn More:


[1] Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. (2012). Canadian Definition of Homelessness. Retrieved from http://www.homelesshub.ca/sites/default/files/COHhomelessdefinition.pdf

[2] Baker, L., Lalonde, D., & Tabibi, J. (2017). Women, Intimate Partner Violence, & Homelessness. Learning Network Newsletter, Issue 22. London, Ontario: Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children. Retrieved from http://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/our-work/issuebased_newsletters/issue-22/index.html 


“Negative attitudes, feelings, or irrational aversion to, fear or hatred of gay, lesbian, or bisexual people and communities, or of behaviours stereotyped as ‘homosexual.’ It is used to signify a hostile psychological state leading to discrimination, harassment or violence against gay, lesbian, or people.” [1]

Learn More:



[1] The 519. (n.d.). Glossary of terms. Retrieved from http://www.the519.org/education-training/glossary

Human-Animal bond

The human-animal bond is a “mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours considered essential to the health and wellbeing of both.” [1]

The bond can have positive impacts on the mental, physical, and social health of people and animals. [1]

Learn More:


[1] American Veterinary Medical Association. (2023). Human-animal bond. Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/one-health/human-animal-bond

Human Rights

“Human rights affirm and protect the right of every individual to live and work without discrimination and harassment. Human Rights policies and legislation attempt to create a climate in which the dignity, worth and rights of all people are respected, regardless of age, ancestry, citizenship, colour, creed (faith), disability, ethnic origin, family status, gender, marital status, place of origin, race, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.” [1]

“Universal human rights are often expressed and guaranteed by law, in the forms of treaties, customary international law, general principles and other sources of international law. International human rights law lays down obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or to refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups.” [2]

Learn More:


[1] Canadian Race Relations Foundation. (n.d.). CRRF Glossary of Terms. Retrieved from https://www.crrf-fcrr.ca/en/resources/glossary-a-terms-en-gb-1

[2] United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. (n.d.). What are Human Rights. Retrieved from https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/pages/whatarehumanrights.aspx

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is internationally recognized as a human rights violation. 

Since establishing the “Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children” in 2000 (sometimes known as the “Palermo Protocol”), the United Nations has defined human trafficking according to three distinct elements:

  1. The Act: Recruiting, transporting, sheltering, or receiving people…
  2. The Means: …through the use (or threat) of force, coercion, fraud, or deception…
  3. The Purpose: …for sexual exploitation, forced labour, or organ removal. [1]

The Canadian Criminal Code [2] also outlaws human trafficking, which it defines as follows:

279.01(1) Every person who recruits, transports, transfers, receives, holds, conceals or harbours a person, or exercises control, direction or influence over the movements of a person, for the purpose of exploiting them or facilitating their exploitation is guilty of an indictable offence.

Learn More:


[1] Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, U.N.G.A. Res. 55/25, Annex II at 31-39, U.N. Doc. A/55/25 (15 November 2000), entered into force 25 December 2003. Retrieved from: http://www.unodc.org/pdf/crime/a_res_55/res5525e.pdf

[2] Criminal Code, SC, 2005, c. 43. s. 279. Retrieved from: https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-46/section-265.html


The prefix of “hyper” to sexualization is used to distinguish this form of sexualization as one that focuses on children and youth. 

“Hypersexualization of girls can refer to girls being depicted or treated as sexual objects. It also means sexuality that is inappropriately imposed on girls through media, marketing or products directed at them that encourages them to act in adult sexual ways.” [1]


[1] Canadian Women's Health Network. (2012). Hypersexualization of young girls: Why should we care? Retrieved from http://www.cwhn.ca/en/hypersexualizationprime