By Cassie Clemmer, WeWillSpeakOut.US

Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) can be a hard term to say, and an even harder one to completely understand. We use it a lot here at WeWillSpeakOut.US, so we figured we’d give you a quick overview of what the term really means.

The general definition we rely on at WeWillSpeakOut.US is derived from a combinatin of sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).

Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is any sexual or physical act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting. SGBV also includes any gender-motivated act that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychosocial harm or suffering, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

Now, that’s a very technical and all-encompassing definition, so let’s break it down a little bit more.

Sexual and Gender Based Violence is commonly used to capture the different types of violence that are either sexual by nature or based on some sort of attack on ones gender identity or expression.

I’m sure many of you have heard the terms rape, sexual violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, abuse, etc… but sexual and gender based violence is essentially an umbrella term that can mean any and all of those different types of violence. Using “SGBV” allows us to ensure that we can equip faith communities with the knowledge to combat and address the wide range of violence that’s rooted in gender inequality.
Do you still have questions? Here are some FAQs on the term “Sexual and Gender Based Violence” that might help you understand it better:

Does Sexual and Gender Based Violence only refer to physical acts of violence?

One of the many benefits of using the term “SGBV” is that we can also refer to acts which are not only physical by nature. Violence can be perpetrated through many different forms which include, but are not limited to, psychological violence (e.g. verbal abuse and humiliation), socio-economic violence (e.g. legislative practices that restrict gender-equal access to resources), and cultural violence, or patterns of violence that are integrated into cultural norms (e.g. street harassment).

However, these different categories are not always easily distinguishable from each other, as some can influence the others or even occur simultaneously, creating unique situations of violence against victims which can effectively be addressed in the holistic manner that using “SGBV” provides.

Why don’t you just use the term “Violence Against Women”?

A lot of organizations focus on how the types of violence I listed above impact women, but research has shown that men are also victims of sexual and gender based violence. For example, research conducted by the National Institute of Justice has shown that roughly 2.8 million men in the United States are victims of sexual assault every year. Using the term “SGBV” allows us at WeWillSpeakOut.US to take a gender-neutral stance and ensure that our resources can be catered to all victims and survivors.

But what’s the difference between “Sexual Violence” and “Gender Based Violence”?

Sexual violence primarily refers to sexualized acts of violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, etc… while gender-based violence can refer to acts of violence that are enacted against a victim based on either their gender identity or expression. The differences between the two are not clear cut, as one’s gender is often a huge factor in issues surrounding sexual violence and vice-versa; but including both within the term “Sexual and Gender Based Violence” ensures a comprehensive coverage of the many types of violence that are perpetrated, whether they are sexual, cultural, physical, economic, or psychological in nature.


Do you still need clarification around using the term “Sexual and Gender Based Violence”? Leave a question in our comment section, and we will be sure to get back to you with more information!