Helpful definitions

Explore our glossary of helpful definitions to understand what we mean by certain terms so we can use common language to address issues together. 

If you don't feel that what you experienced is captured below, don’t worry, your feelings are valid and if you experienced or witnessed something that made you feel uncomfortable or scared, we’re here to help. Fill out the disclosure form to arrange a confidential conversation with the Harassment and Misconduct team for more information and judgement-free support. 

Sexual violence

Sexual assault happens when someone touches another person in a sexual manner or makes another person take part in sexual activity with them, without that person's consent. This can include rape, attempted rape, kissing, sexual touching (including through clothes) and/or pressing up against another for sexual pleasure. ssment and Misconduct team for more information and judgement-free support.

Sexual misconduct refers to sexual harassment and sexual assault. It is a broad term that includes any type of action or violence that uses power, control and/or intimidation to harm someone. It can also includes domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Sexual misconduct occurs when there is no consent given. If someone says ‘no’ to any kind of sexual activity, they are not agreeing to it. Someone doesn't have to say ‘no’ out loud; giving and withdrawing consent can be verbal and non-verbal.

Sexual harassment can be defined as "unwanted verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or some other conduct based on sex, which affects a person's working or learning conditions or creates a hostile or humiliating working or studying environment for that person". This can be face to face, telephone and/or written communication (emails or online) and can include; unnecessary touching, physical assault, coercing sexual intercourse, physical threats and/or insulting or abusive behaviours or gestures, lewd comments, jokes and/or sending inappropriate or sexually offensive images.

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and/or emotional abuse. There may be a pattern of one or a few of these behaviours and includes, being hit, verbally abused, threats or being isolated from friends. You do not have to be living with the person for this definition to apply to their behaviour.

Controlling or coercive behaviour describes behaviour happening within a current or former intimate or family relationship which causes someone to fear that violence will be used against them on more than one occasion, or causes serious alarm or distress that substantially affects their day to day activities. It involves a pattern of behaviour or incidents that enable a person to exert power or control over another. These acts are designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependant by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. It may include an act or a pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation, telling you what to do, say or wear and tracking where you go and who you see and demanding passwords for your accounts including banking and university IT account.

Manipulation ‍is the action of indirectly interfering with the decision-making process of another person, particularly in a clever or unscrupulous way. It may be emotional or psychological. Manipulative behaviours include threatening you, flattering you, making you feel guilty, or putting you down and making you feel low self worth. Some manipulators display confusing behaviour by alternating between being overly affectionate and charming and then being cold or angry. They may also use emotional blackmail or threats of what might happen if end the relationship.

Honour-based violence is a crime or incident committed to protect or defend the honour of the family or community. The term can cover a collection of practices used to control behaviour within families or other social groups, in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs or honour. You may be told that you have brought shame on your family because of your choice of partner, the clothes you wear or something that has happened to you.  

Bullying and harassment

Bullying is the unwanted, aggressive behaviour or intentional hurting that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated.   It can happen face to face or online and includes verbal abuse, threats, insults, deliberately demeaning you (especially in front of others), spreading rumours, unfair work demands that are different to others and continuous insensitive jokes or comments.

Harassment is a pattern of unwanted behaviours that are, physical, verbal or non-verbal which may intentionally or unintentionally violate a person’s dignity or create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment which interferes with an individual’s learning, working or social environment. It can also include unwanted and excessive messages, gifts, threats of what may happen or promises of what could happen if you behaviour in a certain way.

Discrimination takes place when an individual or a group of people is treated less favourably than others based on one of the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act (2010). These include age; disability; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; sexual orientation. You can experience direct or indirect discrimination. The types of behaviour include discriminating if you have a mental health condition or family responsibilities. You may feel you don't get the same opportunities, derogatory comments based on your characteristics or receiving less pay for doing the same job as colleagues.

Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted behaviour that is used by a person to affect their victim. Every stalking situation is different.  It may include;  unwanted attention, contact, harassment, leaving frequent messages, unwanted gifts, turning up at places you are at and monitoring where you are and who you are with. Stalking behaviours may be committed in person or by monitoring and harassing the victim electronically.

Blackmail (also known as extortion) is a criminal offence. It is the action of demanding payment or another benefit from someone in return for not revealing compromising or damaging information about them. This can include threats to share images of a sexual nature and threats to inform the university or others that you have accessed online sites including academic cheat sites. You may be being blackmailed by someone you know or it could be anonymised.

Hate crimes

Hate crimes are any criminal offence if it is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's (perceived or otherwise known) disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. These include physical attacks, such as assault, damage to property, or the threat of attack, such as inciting hatred by words, pictures or videos, offensive letters, abusive or obscene telephone calls, groups hanging around to intimidate, and unfounded malicious complaints.

Hate incidents are any non-crime incidents which are perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity or perceived disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. This could include verbal or online abuse, insults, such as taunting, offensive leaflets and posters, abusive gestures, bullying at school or in the workplace.

What mainly separates a Hate Crime from a Hate Incident is whether it is a criminal offence. If it becomes a criminal offence then the person can be prosecuted. It is possible for something to be an initial hate incident to become a Hate Crime. However Hate Incidents can also be recorded by the Police as well as other organisations. So it is still taken seriously.

Drink and needle spiking

Drink spiking is when someone has added something, for example, alcohol or drugs, to your drink, without you knowing. This may affect the way you act or how you behave. There are a number of reasons someone may spike a drink, from an inappropriate prank or joke, to malicious intent. Drink spiking is illegal, even if the person affected is not attacked or assaulted. 

Needle spiking (also known as spiking injections) is when a person is unknowingly injected with a drug.  The injection can me made using any sharp implement.  

The affects of drink and needle spiking can include, becoming suddenly unwell, being violently sick, confusion and unable to move  properly, and losing memory until the next morning.  You may find that you wake up in an unfamiliar place, or are at home but can't remember getting there.    

Learn how to support healthy relationships 

Supporting Healthy Relationships is a short online course that will give you the tools to recognise, build and maintain healthy relationships. The course covers topics including consent, power imbalances and coercion, bystander intervention, and how to access support if you experience or see something that concerns you.  

In addition to helping you build healthy relationship skills for life, the course highlights what’s expected of you as a member of our community at Leeds, and potential consequences if our community values aren’t upheld.  

All students are enrolled onto the Supporting Healthy Relationships course on Minerva at the beginning of the academic year. While the course is designed to be helpful and informative, if you feel upset by any of the course content, contact the Harassment and Misconduct team at