Empowerment and healing for women moving on from violence

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Information from Women and Girls Network

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Some of the words we use aren't commonly used outside of the type of work that we do, that's why we have created this glossary. Click on the words below to find out their definitions.


Advocacy means getting support from another person to help you express your views and wishes, and help you stand up for your rights. Someone who helps you in this way is called your advocate. - Mind

Having the capacity to choose refers to the ability a person has to make a particular choice. A person will lack capacity to consent if at the relevant time she has no understanding of what is involved or has such limited knowledge or understanding that she is not in a position to decide whether or not to agree. Being unconscious or under the influence of drugs or alcohol may remove a person’s capacity to consent.

''Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).'' - HM Government, 2015

''Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse. Children in exploitative situations and relationships receive something such as gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them. Children or young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed online. Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.'' - NSPCC

Counselling is a type of talking therapy. It involves working with a trained Specialist Counsellor. This can provide you a space that helps you get a clearer understanding of yourself and your experiences.

Counsellors at Women & Girls Network receive specialist training and understand the impact of gender-based violence, they will never force you to talk about anything you are not ready to. When you work with a counsellor who is right for you, you should feel understood and supported. You will be encouraged to express your feelings in safe and appropriate ways and to address feelings of trauma that can be associated with experiences of gender-based violence.

Deciding to have counselling can be a very powerful and life-affirming choice. However, it is not always easy or comfortable. It will involve remembering and feeling memories and emotions that can be painful and difficult. This is a usual part of the counselling process and it will get easier.

Generally, troubles don’t take a ticket and wait politely for you to tell them it’s their turn, and it only takes a few events to cause a domino effect that can affect family life, where you live, your work, your health, your sense of who you are. When these things repeat or continue over time, just functioning day to day can be overwhelming, or impossible.

''Consent involves making a free choice about whether or not to engage in sexual activity. Consent may be given to one thing but not another, for example, oral penetration but not vaginal penetration. Similarly, consent may be given and then withdrawn'' - Rights of Women

“A pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. In extreme cases this includes murder” - Home Office

Equality is not about treating all people in the same way. It’s about recognising and respecting diversity enough to adapt practice and procedure to suit all.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there's no medical reason for this to be done. 

FGM is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. It's illegal in the UK and is child abuse. It's very painful and can seriously harm the health of women and girls. It can also cause long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health. - NHS

A forced marriage is a marriage, which takes place against your will; or a marriage that you agreed to, but you did not really have a choice. - Rights of Women

Experiences of violence  viewed through the lens of gender. Recognises that  socially  imposed norms, roles and expectations of masculinity and femininity affect intimate relationship and family structures. The gendered social environment  affects prevalence, intention and consequences of abuse and violence differentially for men and women.

Gender responsive services: “ provide services  designed to meet the unique needs of females, value the female perspective, celebrate and honour the female experience,  respect and take into account female development, and that empower women and girls to reach their full potential.”

VAWG: Stands for violence against women and girls, and is described as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. (UN General Assembly, 1993)

“Violence that is directed against a women because she is a woman, or that affects women disproportionately and declares it to be a form of discrimination against women that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedom on a basis of equality with men”. The Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) definition

Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.

Children and young people who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited or trafficked.

Anybody can be a groomer, no matter their age, gender or race. Grooming can take place over a short or long period of time – from weeks to years. Groomers may also build a relationship with the young person's family or friends to make them seem trustworthy or authoritative. - NSPCC

Harmful practices are forms of violence which have been committed primarily against women and girls in certain communities and societies for so long that they are considered, or presented by perpetrators, as part of accepted cultural practice.

The most common are forced or early marriage, so called 'honour' based violence and female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM). - NHS Health Scotland

We refer to a case of violence happening over 12 months ago as ‘historic’. It can be very difficult to talk about violence that has happened to you right away, and sometimes it takes many years for a person to be able to speak about it.

The concept of ‘honour’ is for some communities deemed to be extremely important. To compromise a family’s ‘honour’ is to bring dishonour and shame and this can have severe consequences. The punishment for bringing dishonour can be emotional abuse, physical abuse, family disownment and in some cases even murder. - Karma Nirvana

Intersectionality is a way of taking into consideration all the factors that together make up our political identities: our gender, race, ethnicity, class and status in society, our sexuality, our physical abilities, or age our national status and so on.

Intersectionality tries to make visible the multiple factors that structure women’s experiences of oppression, against which women have to struggle.

“There is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives” - Audre Lorde

ISVA stands for Independent Sexual Violence Advocate. These are professionals who are independent from the police and criminal justice system, who can support you through the criminal justice process if you chose to report an incident of sexual violence that has been committed against you. You can find out about our ISVA service here.

The perpetrator is the person who has committed the act of violence against another person.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. -Audre Lorde

Audre is speaking about self-care as radical and political.  This quote from 1988 is still very relevant today.  Especially when self-care has become an industry, a way to sell us luxury products and promote a way of living that is unaffordable and unattainable to most people.

Within the black feminist and civil rights movement self-care was a means of reclaiming bodily autonomy from a racist and sexist medical establishment and institutions, where most professionals were white, male and middle class, and the health needs of black people and black women in particular were not well met.  -  Arguably this is still the case today.

Self-care also is political and radical as it is a means of preserving ourselves - given the structural inequality and oppression we experience as cis and trans women, women of colour, young women, queer women, disabled women and non-binary people.

Self-care—It is NOT about blaming ourselves for how we are feeling e.g. ‘I am feeling down because I have neglected my self-care’, it is about recognizing that life is hard, the world is unequal and that I experience discrimination and oppression because of my identity and that is why I feel rubbish.  So ‘I’m gonna take care of myself in order to survive, to resist and so I can live my best life despite this’. To us this is a form of radical self-love & definitely not selfish. - WGN Young Women's Self Care Zine


Involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where someone receives ‘something’ (e.g. food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, protection money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability. (Department for Education, 2017)

''Any physical, visual or verbal sexual act, or attempt to carry out a sexual act, that is experienced by the woman or girl (at the time or later) as a threat, invasion or assault that has the effect of hurting her or degrading her and /or takes away her ability to control intimate contact'' - Liz Kelly 1984

This is how we refer to someone who has experienced gendered violence

Involves recruiting, moving or harbouring a person in particular ways, such as by using force, deception, the abuse of power or the abuse of a position of vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation, like forcing someone to be involved in prostitution, forced labour or domestic servitude. (United Nations, 2004)

‘an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.’ https://www.samhsa.gov/trauma-violence 

Acknowledges the range and duration of trauma responses, and seeks to meet the survivor where she is, when she’s ready

Stands for violence against women and girls, and is described as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. (UN General Assembly, 1993)

This is how the police tend to refer to people who have experienced gendered violence, or are on the receiving end of any crime. We use survivor instead because the women we meet seek to move forward in their lives, and don’t want to be defined by their abusers, or what they subjected them to.