Relationship & Gender-based Violence Glossary

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There might be a lot of words or phrases that you might not understand when it comes to relationships and different forms of gender based violence. Here, we explain some of them.

Coercive control

When someone is trying to control you, we call that coercive control. This means that someone uses controlling behaviour to intimidate or threaten the person they are in a relationship with or their ex. It is a criminal offence to use coercive control and it is a form of abuse. It is a pattern of controlling behaviours such as assault, threats, intimidation or humiliation that create an unequal power dynamic in a relationship and leaves one person frightened. The frightened partner will find it difficult to leave due to the other person having a lot of control over them. Find out more about coercive control.


Consent is permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. To give consent you must be able to give it freely and with full capacity. This means that if you are forced to yes or if you do not understand fully what you are agreeing to, then you are not able to give consent.

It’s important that no one ever does anything sexual to you unless you consent – it’s your body and no one should ever do anything to you that you don’t want.

Find out more about consent and the law.

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse refers to any type of abuse between partners or ex-partners. This includes, but is not limited to, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse, stalking, harassment, image-based abuse, and verbal abuse.


Exploitation is the act of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from then. If someone gives you something to get you to do sexual things with them or someone else, this is called sexual exploitation.

It could be for money, drugs, alcohol, a lift or a place to stay. And they don’t have to give you money or a physical thing for it to be sexual exploitation. They might give you affection, make you feel like they care for you, or treat you like an adult – maybe when it seems like no one else does. Find out more about sexual exploitation.


Gaslighting is when one person manipulates another into doubting their own beliefs or sanity. For example, if someone manipulates you into doubting that an event happened, that you were there for, that is being gaslit. Find out more about gaslighting.

Gender-based violence 

Gender-based violence is violence that affects a person of a particular gender disproportionately. You might hear this a lot when researching domestic abuse (a form of gender-based violence) because a disproportionate amount of women, compared to men, face domestic abuse. This does not mean that men do not face it, it just means that the rate of it happening is not equal for both men and women.

It is defined in the Equally Safe Scotland’s Strategy for Preventing and Eradicating Violence Against Women and Girls as:

“Gender-based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege… By referring to violence as ‘gender based’ this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women’s and girl’s subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood, therefore, in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women’s vulnerability to violence.” 

Gender-based violence can include sexual, physical, mental and economic harm inflicted in public or in private. You can read more about different forms of gender-based violence on our That’s Not OK page.

Image-based abuse 

Image-based abuse is when someone uses images against you in a threatening or abusive way, this is sometimes called revenge porn. For example, if someone shares or sells your explicit photos without your knowledge that is image-based abuse.

Image-based abuse can happen both online and offline; this can happen when someone uploads an image to the internet or social media channels, sharing by text and email, and showing someone a physical or electronic image or video without the other person’s consent.

Below are some examples of image-based abuse:

LGBTQIA+ Relationship

This is when one or more people in a romantic and/or sexual relationship are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex or asexual. It also includes other identities that aren’t straight or heterosexual (where someone is attracted to the opposite gender) or cisgender. Find out more about gender identity. Get more information about LGBT relationships and gender identity in British Sign Language (BSL).


Outing somebody is when someone shares another person’s gender or sexual identity with others without consent. Coming out is a personal choice and it should be up to the person about how and when they choose to do it.


This usually means someone that you are in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with. Some people tend to prefer the term ‘partner’ as it doesn’t describe the gender of the person they are talking about, unlike boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife. 


This can either be a romantic relationship, a friendship, or a familial relationship (where you are related to someone). There are lots of different types of relationships you can have with someone, but the most important thing is that it is healthy. Find out more about what a healthy relationship involves. 

Romantic Relationship

This is when you and another person do romantic things like holding hands and kissing. It also involves being emotionally open with each other, like talking about your feelings and sharing things about yourself. It can also involve sex too, but not all romantic relationships do. 

Sexual Relationship

This is when you and another person are intimate with each other and have sex. It can involve romance too, but not all the time. Just because you have had sex with someone before, or have a sexual relationship, doesn’t mean you can’t say no to sex if you don’t want to. It also doesn’t mean that you can pressure your partner to have sex. Find out more about consent.


Victim blaming is when someone turns a situation, such as gender-based violence, around to make it look like it was the victim’s fault. For example, if someone were to be harassed on the street and somebody says to them “well look at what you’re wearing, you’re asking for it” that is victim-blaming. It is never your fault if you experience any form of gender-based violence.

Unhealthy relationship 

An unhealthy relationship may not be abusive but it can be. It’s typically when one or more people in the relationship display unhealthy behaviours such as control, manipulation or anything that makes another person uncomfortable. Find out more about what makes an unhealthy or healthy relationship.

Where can I get help and support?

Find out where to get support.

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