Concepts to understand #MeToo

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Concepts to understand #MeToo
Concepts to understand #MeToo

As conversations around #MeToo and #TimesUp expand online, it is important to understand different concepts and terminologies related to sexual assault and harassment. Here is a lexicon of terms in alphabetical order to help you understand context and discourse surrounding the #MeToo movement.

We will keep updating the list to make it comprehensive. 


Accountability is claiming responsibility, willingly or consequentially, for an act or course of action. The significance of increasing accountability in cases of sexual violence is the connection to prevention: by individually acknowledging the harm we’ve caused, we are less likely to engage in this behavior again, thereby decreasing the likelihood of future incidents. (Source)


Advocacy is the act of providing private or public support for someone. It is a tool employed within systems to effect social, cultural, and/or systemic change. (Source)


Repeated, persistent and aggressive behaviour intended to cause fear, distress or harm to another person’s body, emotions, self-esteem or reputation. (Source)

Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention is a social science strategy to prevent violence and oppression through the engagement of individuals (or groups) willing to actively address a situation they deem problematic. An active bystander is someone who acknowledges a problematic situation and chooses how to respond. (Source)


Centering is one expression of privilege: a tendency to place yourself, your experience or your social group at the centre of a conversation. (Source)


Coercion is a tool of control that uses pressure or manipulation to ignore or reject the needs of another person. Coercive behavior can include subtle or overt threats, intimidation, blackmail, dishonesty, persistence, emotional withholding, etc. A person’s ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, is necessarily influenced by the interplay of power, identity, and privilege between those involved. (Source)


Consent is a mutual agreement, to listen to and stay engaged with one another throughout all interactions, to respect both yourself and your partners’ needs, and to understand that someone may choose to disengage from the experience at any time. (Source)


A person who enables another person’s, especially a predator’s, actions by creating opportunities for their behaviour to persist and/or by helping reduce the risk of their suffering the consequences of their actions. (Source)


Gaslighting, an elaborate and insidious technique of deception and psychological manipulation, usually practiced by a single deceiver, or “gaslighter,” on a single victim over an extended period. Its effect is to gradually undermine the survivors confidence in their own ability to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, or reality from appearance, thereby rendering them pathologically dependent on the gaslighter in his/her thinking or feelings. (Source)

Gender Inequity

Gender Inequity refers to the disparity of power, status, and opportunity among genders in a society. This dynamic is reinforced through interpersonal interaction at home, in school, and in the workplace, and institutionalized through policies, laws, and systems. (Source)


Intersectionality acknowledges that people have different identities and forms of privilege that intersect: a poor man of color can have male privilege without race or class privilege. (Source)

Male Privilege

Male privilege is a special status conferred on males in societies where male supremacy is the central social organizaing feature. Such patriarchial societies confer broad social, economic, and political assets on men because they are male. These privileges are based on beliefs about superiority of male biological sex and gender. (Source)


Patriarchy is the term used to describe the society in which we live today, characterised by current and historic unequal power relations between women and men whereby women are systematically disadvantaged and oppressed. This takes place across almost every sphere of life but is particularly noticeable in women’s under-representation in key state institutions, in decision-making positions and in employment and industry. (Source)


A perpetrator is someone who has committed an act along the spectrum of violence. Other terms used in administrative, legal, and social settings might include rapist, defendant, accused, abuser, offender, respondent, or, less commonly, stalker, harasser, etc. Complainants have the right to use the language they feel most comfortable with. (Source)

Power-based Violence

Power-based Violence is behavior involving power, control, and coercion used to harm someone else. The term is sometimes used in place of the term “gender-based violence”, but referring to this violence as “power-based” acknowledges that all genders can experience and perpetrate this kind of violence. (Source)


Privilege is the idea that our social structure advantages some people and disadvantages others, in complicated ways. It’s an essential concept in the #MeToo conversation because it helps us recognize that we come to that conversation with very different experiences, stakes, and lenses—differences we may not always readily acknowledge. (Source)


Post-traumatic stress disorder, “a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.” (Source)

Quid Pro Quo

A Latin phrase that means "something for something" or "this for that." It is one form of sexual harassment, in which an employee must submit to some form of unwelcome sexual conduct in exchange for an employment benefit, such as a promotion, or the job itself. (Source)

Rape Culture

Rape culture is a term (coined by Susan Griffin in 1971) that helps us see sexual violence, sexual harassment, and everyday sexism as cultural phenomena that exist on a continuum. The concept of rape culture acknowledges that we live in a culture that immerses us all in messages that promote the violation of women’s bodies; recognizing rape as a culture-wide problem, and not just an individual character issue, is an essential precursor to actually stopping it. (Source)

Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault is a legal term referring to any unwanted sexual contact, such as fondling, groping, or penetration of any orifice by any body part or object. Sexual Assault is not related to sexual pleasure or gratification, but instead is about the desire (conscious or otherwise) for power and control over another person. (Source)

Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is any expression or behavior that can be interpreted to be of a sexual nature and is unwelcome by the recipient. Examples include unwelcome sexual advances or flirting, inappropriate sexual jokes or derogatory language regarding someone’s physical appearance, perceived or actual gender identity or sexual orientation, and acts of sexual assault. (Source)

Sexual Objectification

Sexual Objectification is the practice of treating a person as an object to be consumed, placing their worth on their body and appearance. It is a tool of the patriarchy, normalized by rape culture, disproportionately impacting women. (Source)


Silencing is the behavior of shouting down or shaming unwelcome comments or voices—or simply signalling, in a million subtle ways, that a certain perspective or voice or set of of voices is unwelcome. (Source)


Stalking is repeated harassment or threatening behavior toward another person. Stalking behaviors may include persistent patterns of sending someone or leaving unwanted items or presents, following or waiting for someone, damaging or threatening to damage property, defaming someone's character, or harassing someone by posting personal information and/or spreading rumours. (Source)


"Stealthing" is a term that describes when a man removes a condom during sex despite agreeing to wear one. (Source)


Survivor refers to anyone who has been harmed as a result of gender-based violence and has survived the incident(s). Since language has the ability to help or hinder the healing process, using “survivor” is a hopeful attempt to bring to center the agency and resiliency of those who have experienced a trauma. (Source)

Toxic Masculinity

Toxic masculinity or hegemonic masculinity are two versions of the idea that our society’s definition of manhood is inseparable from the oppression of women. It’s an important concept to understand in the conversation around #MeToo, because it’s the lens through which some people look at the problems of sexual harassment and assault: as byproducts of hegemonic masculinity. (Source)


Trauma can be described as a normal response to an emotionally harmful incident or series of incidents experienced by a person or community. Most frequently we associate trauma with a specific event, but it is equally important to consider the emotional impact of systemic oppression on the lives of individuals and communities. (Source)


A trigger is something that sets off a memory tape or flashback, transporting the person back to the event of the original trauma and causing the individual to experience overwhelming emotions, physical symptoms or thoughts. The individual will react to this trigger with an emotional intensity similar to the time of the trauma. (Source)


Victim is a legal term which may be used intentionally to emphasize that sexual violence is a crime with a spectrum of damaging and enduring effects whether or not the act(s) are reported to or adjudicated in the campus administrative, the criminal justice, or the civil systems. Additionally, it is used to signify people who have experienced abuse who are no longer alive. (Source)

Victim Blaming

Victim blaming is a facet of rape culture: a range of direct and subtle ways in which the victims of sexual violence and harassment are blamed for their experiences. (Source)