What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is an umbrella term that includes all forms of violence, whether physical or psychological, that manifest in a sexual way: sexual assault, sexual exploitation, online sexual violence, child luring, child prostitution and procuring. Regardless of the form it takes, sexual violence comes with heavy consequences, both for the victims and their loved ones and for society. Sexual violence can affect all families, children and adolescents, of all social classes and all cultures.

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. The terms “excision”, “infibulation” and “genital cutting” are also used to designate all these practices. There are several types of FGM, practiced for a variety of cultural and social reasons.

Sexual assault

A sexual assault is:

  • an act of a sexual nature, with or without physical contact;
  • an act committed without the consent of the targeted person or through emotional manipulation or blackmail
  • an act that aims to subject a person to the perpetrator’s own desires through an abuse of power, the use of force, constraint, or implicit or explicit threat;
  • an act that infringes on basic rights, including bodily and psychological integrity and security of the person.

A sexual assault may involve one or more types of sexual acts or activities:

  • Fondling
  • Kissing of a sexual nature
  • Masturbation
  • Oral-genital contact
  • Penetration or attempted penetration
  • Other sexual activities
  • Exhibitionism
  • Voyeurism

Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation includes a number of phenomena. Generally speaking, sexual exploitation occurs when an adult or teenager takes advantage of the body of a younger child or teenager for sexual purposes, in order to gain a financial or other benefit. Generally, the exploiter takes advantage of the victim’s state of vulnerability or dependence, and may use force and power to attract, manipulate or threaten young people.

Sexual exploitation can take many forms such as procuring and human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, child pornography, sexual cyberviolence and child luring.

Online sexual violence

Online sexual violence is a form of sexual violence carried out through various communications technologies: the Web, social media, text messages and more. It can include sexual advances, attempts to obtain sexual favours or relations, sharing sexual messages, photos or videos, and so forth. Online sexual violence can take many forms.

Online harassment

When a victim is pursued by e-mail, text or social media. Their online communications are watched or interfered with. The person feels threatened.


When a young person is a victim of sexual blackmail. They are threatened with the electronic distribution of sexual images or information.

Virtual sexual assault

When a young person is the victim of constant messages that contain threats of sexual assault.

Online predators and online exploitation

When adults or adolescents communicate with children online in the aim of committing a sexual infraction.

Child luring

Child luring is when a person seduces and manipulates a young person under the age of 18 using the Internet or new technologies with the aim of committing a sexual assault.


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