The WAVE glossary provides an overview of key terminologies relevant to the field of addressing violence against women and girls. By navigating alphabetically you can find concise definitions below. Please note that while the list is comprehensive, it is not exhaustive, and we are committed to continuous updates to ensure its relevance and completeness.



Additional services

All other services which are not specialised or gender-specific, but that still provide some level of support for women survivors of violence, are considered in the WAVE Country Report as additional services. Services that qualify as additional can be, for example, centres that specialise in supporting survivors of trafficking.



By women and for women (by-and-for) distinguishes specialist organisations tackling violence against women (VAW) from generic organisations. By and for organisations have the following features: they are gendered, meaning that they deliver services to women and girls only in women and girls safe space; the by and for ethos is organic to these organisations meaning that they developed historically as VAW organisations under diverse feminist perspectives addressing patriarchy, structural inequality, oppression, disadvantage, marginalisation and exclusion; they centre the voices and representations of women and girls in governance, service delivery and development; the by and for identity is embedded historically in the vision, policy and practice of these organisations and form the fundamental principles around which governance frameworks are developed; leadership and management of by and for organisations as well as staffing structures address structural inequality by ensuring that they reflect the women and girls who use services; and, a key feature of diverse feminism is addressing structural inequality and patriarchy (sexism and misogyny). Within by and for, there are also specific and nuanced specialisms such as organisations working with black and minority ethnic women and girls, women with disabilities and the many other categories of women that make up protective characteristics. These by and for organisations work under an intersectional framework where all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG) are recognised and oppression is viewed as interlocking. By and for is not an add-on or a label that can be used for convenience in funding. It does not describe generic organisations whose main function is activity that is not centred around VAWG.


Centres for child sexual abuse

Centres for minors experiencing sexual abuse are facilities that provide specialist support, among others, to minors up to the age of 18, who have experienced any form of sexual abuse at some point in their lives.

Centres for survivors of human trafficking

These are specialist services for survivors of human trafficking, which provide a comprehensive, human-rights and gender-based approach to meet their specific needs. Services provided by such centres may include but are not limited to the following: counselling, legal advice and assistance concerning the survivor’s migration process and legal status in the country, accompaniment within the justice system, empowering support and assistance to improve the survivor’s living and working conditions including training and education.

Coercive control

Coercive control is a form of psychological violence. Legislation is moving towards the explicit inclusion of coercive control within the definition of domestic violence and can be defined as a persistent and deliberate pattern of behaviour by a partner/ex-partner designed to achieve obedience and create fear, which may include coercion, emotional/psychological abuse, isolation, physical violence, degradation and control.


Domestic violence (DV)

Domestic violence (DV) means all acts of physical, sexual, coercive, psychological, or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the survivor.1




The term ‘femicide’ refers to the gender-related killing of women and girls. In broad terms, these can be understood as killings of women and girls perpetrated by men because they are women. These crimes are ultimately connected to stereotyped gender roles associated with women and historically unequal power relations between women and men, which instil a sense of possessiveness and superiority in men over women.


Gender-based violence (GBV)

Gender-based violence against women means violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.2 Gender-based violence is understood to be a form of discrimination and a violation of the fundamental freedoms of the victim and includes violence in close relationships, sexual violence (including rape, sexual assault and harassment), trafficking in human beings, slavery, and different forms of harmful practices, such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour crimes’. Women survivors of gender-based violence and their children often require special support and protection.3

Gender-neutral practices

Gender-neutral practices are those sets of policies and regulations governing funding and service provision required by the state and governments to provide services that have been funded through public money to both men and women. Gender-neutral practices and policies hide or diminish the root causes of gender inequality and gender-based violence by placing women-only services under threat. Moreover, they obscure the prevalence rates and different impacts on/needs of women and men who are survivors. Gender-neutral is a way of thinking that specifically targets women-only organisations to provide access to services to both men and women without consideration of historically unequal power relations between men and women. Gender neutrality threatens to dismantle the ethos of women-only organisations that challenge patriarchy as a root cause of women’s inequality and violence against women. Gender neutrality denies women access to safe women-only spaces.

Gender-specific approach

Article 18 §3 of the Istanbul Convention recognises violence against women as gender-based violence. As such, all measures to eliminate violence against women must be implemented using a gender-specific approach, meaning a gendered understanding of the violence experienced by women, its specific dynamics and consequences, and should focus on victims’ empowerment.



Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs)

The main purpose of independent domestic violence advisors (IDVAs) is to address the safety of victims at high risk of harm from intimate partners, ex-partners or family members to secure their safety and the safety of their children. They serve as a victim’s primary point of contact and regularly work with their clients from the point of crisis to assess the level of risk. They also discuss the range of suitable options leading to the creation of a workable safety plan.

Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs)

Independent sexual violence advisors (ISVAs) offer specialist support to victims of rape and sexual assault, including legal counselling. They are an independent, non-judgemental and confidential service. They work closely with relevant agencies to ensure survivors get the advice, information and support they need. Survivors have access to an ISVA from the point of referral through to any case that arises and in the aftermath of one. Support is given either through face-to-face visits, telephone contact or both.

Intervention centres with a proactive approach

These are organisations that support women survivors of violence and their children, if any, in all matters concerning their protection and the securing of their rights, in civil as well as criminal lawsuits. Intervention Centres also have the task to take a variety of legal and social measures in order to prevent further violence. By taking a proactive approach, it means that rather than waiting for the survivors to contact them, the staff from the intervention centre write letters or make phone calls to the survivor to offer help. Of course, it is up to the survivors to decide whether they want to accept the help being offered.






National women’s helpline

A helpline qualifies as a national women’s helpline if it is a service provided specifically for women and if it only, or predominantly, serves women survivors of violence. A women’s helpline should operate 24/7, should be free of charge, should serve survivors of various forms of violence against women, and should provide assistance in several languages. The latter can enable survivors of violence to overcome any language barriers. It should operate state-wide and provide adequate support to womenfrom all regions; this means staff must be properly trained, have effective communication skills and be knowledgeable about regional situations and all relevant provisions.


Other shelters

Shelters included under this category do not have to be specialised or gender-specific, but they should still provide some level of support to all survivors of violence. Shelters under this category can also include services that provide temporary housing and general shelters.



Prevention refers to actions that prevent GBV from occurring by addressing its root causes, namely gender inequality, systemic discrimination and unequal power relations between women and men, as well as people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.4

Primary prevention refers to all approaches that aim to prevent violence before it occurs, secondary prevention encompasses the approaches that focus on the more immediate responses to violence, and tertiary prevention includes the approaches that focus on long-term care in the wake of violence and seek to lessen trauma.5



Rape crisis centres (RCC)

Rape crisis centres are understood to be specialist centres for sexualised violence that offer immediate, medium and long-term specialist support to survivors of rape, sexual assault, or any form of sexual violence. They offer survivor–centred empowerment, advocacy and counselling for survivors, both in terms of personal wellbeing and in providing advice, information and accompaniment, including accompaniment to the police, the court and throughout legal proceedings. They may also engage with the community and in an interagency manner to ensure a better response for survivors and to effect prevention.

They may also have a helpline that provides specialist counselling to the aforementioned types of survivors, gives them relevant information about their rights and refers them to other specialist support services, as required by the situation. The minimum standards from the Istanbul Convention recommend that one RCC/sexual violence referral centre should be provided per every 200,000 inhabitants, and in terms of geographical coverage, they should also be accessible in rural areas as much as in cities.


Sexual violence referral centres (SVRC)

A sexual violence referral centre (SVRC) may specialise in immediate medical care, forensic practice, storage of evidence and crisis intervention, and can be placed in hospital settings to respond to survivors of recent sexualised violence. These centres can also carry out medical assistance and refer survivors to other specialist community-based centres.

Support services for survivors of sexualised violence

Support services for survivors of sexualised violence may include rape crisis centres (RCC), offering long-term support including counselling and therapy, support groups and support in contact with other services, and sexual violence referral centres (SVRC), specialised in immediate medical care, high-quality forensic practice and crisis intervention, as well as other services for women survivors of sexualised violence.


The WAVE Country Report uses the term “survivor” as a preferred term, to empower women by recognising that the woman has survived the violence and is not defined by it. The term victim is a legal term, which means a natural person who has suffered harm (including physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss) that was directly caused by a criminal offence.6




Violence against women (VAW)

Violence against women is understood as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.7


Women’s centres

The term “women’s centre” includes all women’s services that provide non-residential specialist support to survivors, serving only or predominantly women survivors of violence and their children (if any). Women’s centres provide empowering short and long-term support, based on a gender-specific approach to violence and focusing on the human rights and safety of survivors. The following services are subsumed under the term: women’s counselling and women crises centres, supporting women survivors of all forms of gender-based violence; regional crises centres on domestic violence; pro-active intervention centres serving survivors as a follow-up to police interventions; specialist services for black, minority ethnic women, migrant and refugee women survivors of violence; outreach services; services providing independent domestic or sexual violence advisors, and other newer types of services. These centres usually provide the following kinds of support: information, advice, advocacy and counselling, practical support, court/police/social services accompaniment, pro-active support, outreach, and other services.

Women’s specialist services (WSS)

Women’s specialist services is a collective term used to define feminist services that support women and their children experiencing gender-based violence. These services include but are not limited to women’s support centres, women’s shelters, helplines, rape crisis or sexual violence referral centres, as well as primary prevention services.

WSS empower and support women and girls throughout the cycle of violence by putting their needs at the centre of all interventions, applying an intersectional approach, and working together with them, recognising their agency. WSS are typically run by non-governmental feminist organisations that aim to advance women’s and girls’ human rights to enjoy a life free from all forms of violence.

WSS have for decades been agents of social, cultural, and political change promoting women’s equality in the wider society and challenging the patriarchal system which is the root cause of violence against women and girls. Not only do WSS provide vital services to women and their children, but they also serve as a laboratory for continuous innovation and development of practices and are the first to identify gaps in legislation and policy that affect women and areas for improvement. They are, therefore, vital partners to governments, policymakers, as well as to all other stakeholders working to end violence against women.

Women-only shelters

The term “women-only shelters” refers to shelters that are specialist support services for women survivors of violence and their children (if any) and ensure immediate access to safe accommodation. These provide empowering support, based on a gender-specific approach to violence and focus on the human rights and safety of survivors, therefore the functions of women’s shelters go beyond providing an emergency safe place to stay. They also offer long-term support in order to provide women and their children, if any, with the opportunity and resources necessary to resume their lives free from violence. Some examples of services provided by women’s only shelters include counselling, legal advice and assistance throughout legal proceedings, support to enter/re-enter the labour market, and move-on support to find long-term accommodation after staying in the women’s shelter. To qualify as a women-only shelter, the service must serve exclusively women and their children. The minimum standards from the Istanbul Convention recommend that safe accommodation in specialised women’s shelters should be available in every region, with one shelter place per 10,000 head of population. One shelter place is equivalent to one bed in WAVE’s methodology.




  1. Article 3(b) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). ↩︎
  2. Article 3(d) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). ↩︎
  3. Recital 17, Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA. ↩︎
  4. UNHCR, UNHCR Policy on the Prevention of, Risk Mitigation and Response to Gender-based Violence (2020), pag. 9, ↩︎
  5. Krug, E.G., Dahlberg, L.L., Mercy, James A., et al., World report on violence and health. World Health Organization (2002), ↩︎
  6. Directive 2012/29/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2001/220/JHA. ↩︎
  7. Article 3(a) of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). ↩︎