Use of Terminology


This manual contains language and references to sexual situations which may trigger an emotional response. There are numerous resources available to help you, and a good starting point is the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC), whose counselors provide supportive counselling and information on facilitated access to services.

The words we use as descriptions or labels subconsciously influence how we perceive and how we communicate what is being described or labeled; therefore, it is important to choose our words carefully.

In an effort to be mindful of the impact of the words we choose, we offer the following definitions, terminology, and explanations:


The term sexual misconduct is defined in the Defence Terminology Bank (DTB) as conduct of a sexual nature that can cause or causes harm to others. Sexual misconduct, includes:

  • Actions or words that devalue a person or group of persons on the basis of their sex, sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression;
  • Jokes of a sexual nature, sexual remarks, advances of a sexual nature or verbal abuse of a sexual nature in the workplace;
  • Harassment (DAOD 5012-0) of a sexual nature, including initiation rites of a sexual nature;
  • Viewing, accessing, distributing or displaying sexually explicit material in the workplace; and
  • Any Criminal Code offence of a sexual nature such as:[1]
    • Surreptitiously observing or recording a person in a place where the person could expose his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or could be engaged in explicit sexual activity, or distributing such a recording (voyeurism: section 162 of the Criminal Code);
    • Publishing, distributing, transmitting, selling or making available an intimate image of another person - i.e., a visual recording in which the person depicted is nude, exposing genital organs, anal region or breasts, or engaged in explicit sexual activity - without their consent (publication of an intimate image without consent: section 162.1 of the Criminal Code);
    • Engaging in any kind of sexual activity with another person without their consent (sexual assault: section 271 of the Criminal Code);
    • Engaging in any kind of sexual activity with another person who is incapable of consenting, for example due to intoxication (sexual assault: section 271 of the Criminal Code); and
    • Engaging in any kind of sexual activity with another person by inducing that person to agree to the sexual activity through abuse of a position of trust, power or authority by virtue of rank or position (sexual assault: section 271 of the Criminal Code).

Sexual misconduct can be addressed through the application of administrative measures, through the military justice system by charging an individual with a service offence, or, in the case of behaviour that is also captured in the Criminal Code, through the civilian criminal justice system.


The physical work location and the greater work environment where work-related functions and other activities take place and work relationships exist.

Note: in the CAF context, the workplace can include places such as messes, on-base clubs, quarters, dining halls, gyms, and sanctioned events such as holiday gatherings and course parties as well as office spaces, classrooms, garrisons, ships, hangars, vehicles, aircraft, online forums, etc. CAF members do not simply work for the CAF, but work, socialize and often live within institutional and social structures established by the military.


In accordance with the Criminal Code, this is an assault committed in circumstances of a sexual nature such that the sexual integrity of the complainant/victim is violated. In simple terms, sexual assault is unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature, which includes unwanted sexual touching and sexual activity where the victim was unable to consent.[2]


Is harassment (as defined in DAOD 5012-0 Harassment Prevention and Resolution) that is sexual in nature; sexual harassment may take many forms including overt sexualized behaviour as well as discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender expression and identity.[3]

A list of examples can be found in Chapter 2 Understanding Sexual Misconduct.


It is recognized and acknowledged that individuals may define their own context and/or experience differently. Consider asking affected individuals about their preferred terminology.

People who prefer the term “survivor” often choose it because, for them, it conveys a positive message of strength and resilience, a triumph of hope over despair. Others feel the term “survivor” places undue expectations on them to be strong (or stronger than they feel). They prefer the word "victim," because it puts the focus back where they feel it belongs: on the attacker who took away their choices and “victimized” them.

Some individuals do not identify with either term, and prefer to use other descriptors to define their experience, for example: “affected person”, someone “who has experienced” a sexual assault or sexual harassment.

Given the sensitivity surrounding the use of the term ‘victim’, the term ‘affected person’ will be used in its place when not being used in a legal or police context.


A CAF member who files a complaint (an incident of sexual misconduct) is the complainant. They[4] may not necessarily be the affected person, but may be reporting on behalf of the affected person.


A CAF member who is the subject of the complaint is the respondent. It is important to remember that the respondent has a right to due process and procedural fairness, and an accused member is presumed innocent until proven guilty with the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

[1] Criminal Code,

[2] DAOD 9005-1 Sexual Misconduct Response (to be promulgated)

[3] Ibid.

[4] In this document ‘they’ will be used as a singular third person pronoun.

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