Bystander Initiative | What is sexual misconduct, exactly? Depends on who you ask
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What is sexual misconduct, exactly? Depends on who you ask

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“Sexual misconduct is not a term that I use, or that is used in research. The concept of a ‘continuum of violence against women’ was first introduced in the 80s. Many people have suggested that using sexual violence as an umbrella term is problematic, but it’s a continuum, and these things have a common (nature). On the left side of the continuum, you have things that happen more frequently. On the right side, you have things that have a lower frequency and a higher societal awareness that they are problematic — forcible rape, for example.


All of these acts have the common character of being gender-based oppressive practices. Things on the left side basically make it possible for the things on the right side of the continuum to happen. In an institution, a sexual misconduct policy would include things on the right side of the continuum and those on the left side that are part of the ‘toxic environment’ — displays of pornography in the workplace, for example. The goal is to have people see the link between common behaviours and less common behaviours. If a girl on her way to school experiences comments about her body, there’s no physical touching, but we know the psychological impact of the act.


The idea of a continuum should not be taken to mean that there is a hierarchy of seriousness. It’s up to the sources to say how they have been affected. It’s hard to judge from the outside.”