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Glossary – Gender-based violence and other concepts

The section provides a comprehensive list of definitions to help readers to understand the meanings of key terms used throughout the toolkit. While this toolkit offers valuable insights and strategies, it recognises that legal and policy frameworks may vary from one nation to another, and variation may be found in the language used in legal and policy documents across different national contexts. The glossary offers definitions to help to establish a common discourse/conceptual framework to address gender-based violence in Europe.

Gender based violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is considered “any type of harm that is perpetrated against a person or group of people because of their factual or perceived sex, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity” according to the Council of Europe. Gender-based violence occurs in both private and public spheres, and higher education and research institutions are not an exception.

UniSAFE adopts a broad understanding of gender-based violence, encompassing all forms: physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, economic violence, sexual harassment, harassment on the grounds of gender, and organisational harassment – in both online and offline contexts.

Gender-based violence is understood and conceptualised as a continuum whereby seemingly ‘innocent’ or ‘mild’ forms of misconduct when not addressed tend to gradually escalate into more severe and grave forms of violence. On such a continuum, one can think of inappropriate questions about people’s private lives, comments about one’s looks, ‘unintended’ bodily contact, sexist jokes, manoeuvring victims into unwanted ‘intimate’ encounters, and so forth, up to situations that involve physical and/or sexual violence and even rape. ’Violence’ is in this understanding used as the encompassing term that captures all stages of the continuum.

Importantly, power imbalances are a central root cause of violence. Also, GBV commonly intersects with other grounds of oppression. As such, GBV and, for example, racialised violence can be closely interconnected. Different grounds of oppression and inequality expose people disproportionately to being subjected to violence. It is therefore paramount to consider the specificity of academia, marked by hierarchical structures that place people at distinctively different levels of power and authority, whereby some enjoy strong statutory protection while others work under precarious contracts and yet others are ‘just’ students.

This toolkit aims to eradicate all forms of violence, and covers sensitising and educating on the value of respectful organisational cultures, building capacities in communities to respect and maintain safe and inclusive environments, monitoring behaviours, and addressing, correcting and, where needed, sanctioning misconduct. The toolkit thus supports a holistic approach to gender-based violence. It enables the institution to put in place the basics for safe and inclusive work and study environments, so that the community members foster shared principles of respect. The organisation can then promote and safeguard its principles, while foreseeing the necessary enforcement mechanisms with interventions and – if necessary – sanctions that are proportionate to the unwanted behaviours that are reported.

Please flip your phone horizontally to browse the terms and definitions below.

Gender-based violence encompasses but is not limited to the following types of violence:

Term Definition
Economic and financial violence

Economic and financial violence and abuse refer to intentional acts or behaviours that result in financial or economic harm to an individual or make them financially dependent. This can include controlling financial resources, denying access to money or other resources, forbidding participation in education or employment-related activities, and withholding support. Economic violence can also take the form of sextortion, where a person abuses their entrusted authority to obtain a sexual favour in exchange for a service, benefit, or economic gain. In research, economic violence may manifest as quid pro quo, denying access to financial resources, restricting employment opportunities or healthcare services, withholding employment contracts, or not fulfilling economic responsibilities.

Sources:
-Postmus, J. L., Hoge, G. L., Breckenridge, J., Sharp-Jeffs, N. & Chung, D. (2020). Economic Abuse as an Invisible Form of Domestic Violence: A Multicountry Review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 21(2), 261–283.
-Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F. & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Gender harassment

Gender harassment refers to unwelcome behaviours, actions or comments that create a hostile or offensive environment and are directed towards an individual or a group based on their sex, gender identity or gender expression. These behaviours are not necessarily sexually explicit, but rather can include derogatory or degrading remarks, sexist jokes, exclusion, silencing, stereotypical prejudices or other forms of demeaning treatment that belittle or marginalise individuals based on their gender. Gender harassment can occur in various settings both online and offline, including workplaces, educational institutions and public spaces, and can have negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of those who experience it.

Sources:
Cortina L. M., Kabat-Farr D., Leskinen E. A., Huerta, M. & Magley, V. J. (2011). Selective incivility as modern discrimination in organizations. Journal of Management 39: 1579–1605
Leskinen E. A. & Cortina, L. M. (2014). Dimensions of disrespect: Mapping and measuring gender harassment in organizations. Psychology of Women Quarterly 38: 107–123. https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684313496549.

Online violence

Online violence is a type of violence, abuse, and violation that occurs through the use of information and communication technologies, such as social media, e-mail, text messages and online forums. It can take many forms, including cyberstalking, cyberbullying, internet-based sexual violence, and the non-consensual distribution of sexual images and text. The instantaneous nature of online communication and the ability to reproduce and distribute images and messages globally create unique challenges for addressing and preventing online violence. The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the need to address and prevent online violence as more research and education moves online.

Sources:
-Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F. & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Organisational (gender-based) violence

Organisational gender-based violence refers to the manifestation of gender-based violence at the collective, group, and organisational levels of research-performing organisations. This can take various forms, such as weak or autocratic management that allows or condones individual gender-based violence or the existence of group/organisational cultures that directly or indirectly promote gender-based violence, including hostile environments and psychological violence. Factors that enable such negative environments can include power imbalances, perception of the real costs to the organisation of not (adequately) addressing violence, high stress and dissatisfaction among staff, and the organisation’s leadership style in relation to gender-based violence.

Sources:
-Ågotnes, K. W., Einarsen, S. V., Hetland, J. & Skogstad, A. (2018). The moderating effect of laissez‐faire leadership on the relationship between co‐worker conflicts and new cases of workplace bullying: A true prospective design. Human Resource Management Journal 28(4), 555–568. https://doi.org/10.1111/1748-8583.12200.
-Hearn, J. & Parkin, W. (2001). Gender, Sexuality and Violence in Organizations. London: Sage.
-MacKinnon, C. (1979). Sexual Harassment of Working Women. A Case of Sex Discrimination. Yale University Press.
-Salin, D. & Hoel, H. (2020). Organizational risk factors of workplace bullying. In: Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf & Cooper (eds), Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Theory, Research and Practice. London: CRC Press, pp. 305–330.

Physical violence

Physical violence and abuse refer to the intentional use of physical force against another person or group including kicking, beating, pushing, slapping, shoving, hitting and blocking. Physical violence is the form of violence most easily measured, often in incidents, and commonly addressed. It is direct and often involves a relatively easily identifiable perpetrator, and the time and space between act and immediate impact is very limited.

Sources:
Heise, L. (1998). Violence against women: An integrated, ecological framework. Violence Against Women 4(3), 262–290. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801298004003002 
-Hester, M., Kelly, L. & Radford, J. (eds), (1996). Women, Violence and Male Power: Feminist Activism, Research and Practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.
-Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F. & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Psychological violence

Psychological violence, also known as emotional abuse, involves harmful and intentional behaviours that undermine, manipulate, or control a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. This can include verbal abuse, threats, blackmail, controlling behaviour, and coercion, and can occur in both online and offline contexts. In an academic setting, psychological violence can manifest as public insults, ridiculing of someone’s work, or humiliating a colleague in public, which can have a detrimental effect on a person’s professional and personal well-being.

Sources:
-Council of Europe (2011). Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Council of Europe Treaty Series No. 210). Istanbul: Council of Europe
-European Institute for Gender Equality (2017). Glossary of definitions of rape, femicide and intimate partner violence. Vilnius: EIGE.
-Veinhardt, J. (2019). Psychological violence in the interrelationships between academic community members: the situation of higher education institutions in the pre-reform and reform period. In: International Scientific and Practical Internet Conference Interdisciplinary discourse in the study of the social phenomenon. March 2019, Kyiv, Ukraine.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal, or physical behaviour of a sexual nature, including but not limited to unwanted sexual comments, jokes, innuendos, stalking, sextortion, bullying, sexual invitations, and demands. It can create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment, and is a form of sexual violence. Sexual harassment is not the same as sexual assault, although they can overlap. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when studying or employment decisions are based on acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual behaviour. The term “misconduct” is sometimes used instead of harassment to capture abuses of power.

Sources:
-MacKinnon, C. A. (1979). Sexual Harassment of Working Women. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
-Council of Europe (2011). Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Council of Europe Treaty Series No. 210). Istanbul: Council of Europe.

Sexual violence

Sexual violence is any sexual act that is perpetrated against someone’s will, including rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual coercion. It can have physical, emotional, and psychological consequences for survivors, and affects people from all communities. However, certain groups are more likely to experience sexual violence due to their gender or other characteristics and experiences of inequalities.

Sources:
– Kelly, L. (1988). Surviving Sexual Violence. Cambridge: Polity.
– Phipps, A. (2018). “Lad culture” and sexual violence against students. In: Anitha, S. & Lewis, R. (eds), Gender based violence in university communities: Policy, prevention and educational initiatives. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 41–59.

Other terms and concepts

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Term Definition
Anonymous complaint Anonymous complaints (where the complainant is unknown) are made by those who want to keep their identity uknown to the organisation and not disclosed to anyone.
Bystanders A bystander is an individual who witnesses or becomes aware of a potentially harmful or violent situation, but is not directly involved as a victim or perpetrator. Bystanders have the power to intervene, speak out, or take action to prevent or stop the harm from occurring.
Code of conduct

A Code of Conduct is a document which lays out the expected and unwanted behaviours related to gender-based violence

Source:

Madesi, Vasia, Polykarpou, Panagiota, Mergaert, Lut, & Wuiame, Nathalie. (2023). Developing a Protocol for addressing gender-based violence in research and higher education institutions: UniSAFE guidelines. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8355181 

Consent

Consent refers to the voluntary and informed agreement or permission given by an individual to engage in a specific activity or to participate in a particular situation. A person is not consenting if they do not actively agree, have been forced or pressured in some way or are in a state where they are incapable of full consent (such as when asleep, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or below the age of consent).

Source:
-Consent Hub Ireland. (n.d.). Definitions. Retrieved July 7, 2023, from https://www.consenthub.ie/consent/definitions/
-European Institute for Gender Equality (2017). Glossary of definitions of rape, femicide and intimate partner violence. Vilnius: EIGE.

Continuum of violence

The continuum of violence refers to the idea that different forms of sexual violence, harassment, and abuse are interconnected and exist on a spectrum. It emphasises that these forms of violence are not isolated incidents but part of a larger pattern of behaviour and attitudes that perpetuate a culture of violence and oppression. The concept highlights the need for comprehensive approaches to address and prevent gender-based violence, including education, awareness, and policy changes. In higher education and research institutions, addressing the continuum of violence is crucial for creating a safe and inclusive study and research environment.

Source:
-Hearn, J., Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., & Balkmar, D. (2022). Violence regimes. A useful concept for social politics, social analysis, and social theory. Theory and Society, 51, 565–594.
Kelly, L. (1987). The Continuum of sexual violence. Pp. 46 – 60 in Women, Violence and Social Control edited by Jalna Hanmer, Mary Maynard. Palgrave Macmillan London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-349-18592-4
-Mergaert L, Linková M, Strid S. (2023). Theorising Gender-Based Violence Policies: A 7P Framework. Social Sciences. 12(7):385. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12070385
Walby, S., Towers, J., & Francis, B. (2014). Mainstreaming domestic and gender-based violence into sociology and criminology of violence. The Sociological Review, 62(2), 187 – 214.

Formal complaint

Any member of the university community can file a formal, official complaint with a competent service either face-to-face or, if available, online via an online reporting system. Formal reporting results in the initiation of a formal investigation and disciplinary process based on the institution’s policies. The procedure for formal reporting could differ for students and staff of the institution.

Source:

Madesi, Vasia, Polykarpou, Panagiota, Mergaert, Lut, & Wuiame, Nathalie. (2023). Developing a Protocol for addressing gender-based violence in research and higher education institutions: UniSAFE guidelines. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8355181 

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence refers to all forms of violence, violations, and abuse that are based on gender and go beyond narrow legalistic definitions. This includes physical violence, psychological violence, economic and financial violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, gender harassment, stalking, organisational violence and harassment, as well as emerging forms of violence that are not yet recognised as such. It takes place in both online and offline contexts and is experienced in different forms, such as physical, psychological, emotional, interactive, and in the effects of informal and/or formal/preferred leadership. Gender-based violence is part of a wider system of dominance and power inequalities that goes beyond a binary understanding of gender and may include sexist (and racist) hostility/threats.

Source:
-Hearn, J., Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Balkmar, D., & Delaunay, M. (2022). From Gender Regimes to Violence Regimes: Re-thinking the Position of Violence. Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, 29(2), 682-705.
-Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232
-O’Connor, P., Hodgins, M., Woods, D. R., Wallwaey, E., Palmen, R., Van Den Brink, M., & Schmidt, E. K. (2021). Organisational Characteristics That Facilitate Gender-Based Violence and Harassment in Higher Education? Administrative Sciences, 11(4), 138.

Incident While ‘incident(s)‘ are reported in institutions, using the word ‘incident(s)’ may imply an understanding distracted from the structural nature of violence inherent to certain cultures or contexts and embedded in institutions’ functioning. In line with the understanding of violence as a continuum, where various enactments and forms of violence may coincide, some find it unhelpful to use the word ‘incident(s)’ in the efforts to end violence, as it singles out cases and individuals.
Informal complaints

The institution can offer alternative reporting options such as informal complaints, which will not have the same effect as a formal statement. The protocol will define how and where to file an informal, confidential or anonymous report and the steps to follow. An informal report can be submitted anonymously or with personal details, specifying whether 1) the reporting person cannot be contacted at all or 2) only if there is another victim of the same offender, or 3) can be contacted.

Source:

Madesi, Vasia, Polykarpou, Panagiota, Mergaert, Lut, & Wuiame, Nathalie. (2023). Developing a Protocol for addressing gender-based violence in research and higher education institutions: UniSAFE guidelines. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8355181 

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is an analytical tool used to study, understand, and respond to the ways in which different axes of inequalities, such as those based on gender, race, class, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics, intersect and contribute to unique experiences of disadvantage and discrimination. In the context of studying gender-based violence, the intersectional perspective helps us recognise the variability of forms of violence experienced by people with different characteristicsm and address gender-based violence in a more nuanced way.

Sources:
-Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Policies. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), 139-167.
-Walby, S., Armstrong, J., & Strid, S. (2012). Intersectionality: Multiple inequalities in social theory. Sociology 46(2), 224–240. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038511416164.

Partnership

Partnership refers to the collaborative involvement of relevant actors across various levels and sectors, including governmental agencies, civil society organisations, trade unions, staff and student associations, and other stakeholders, working towards coordinated efforts to address gender-based violence. In higher education and research institutions, partnership involves the development and implementation of procedures in collaboration with students, staff, faculty, and their representatives. This includes establishing close cooperation with legal, police, and criminal justice organisations and professionals, as well as active engagement with non-governmental organisations and other entities with expertise in addressing gender-based violence.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Perpetrator

The term perpetrator refers to an individual who has engaged in violent or abusive behaviour towards others, including but not limited to colleagues, students, or other members of the research community. This behaviour may take various forms, such as sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, or other forms of misconduct, and is intended to exert power and control over the victim. Perpetrators may be employees, students, or visitors to the institution and may have varying levels of authority or influence within the research community.

Sources:
European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2023, from https://eige.europa.eu/thesaurus/terms/1657

Policies

Policies are formal and explicit declarations of an organisation’s commitment to address a specific issue or problem, such as gender-based violence. They are composed of a coherent set of measures and strategies that aim to respond to the problem in an integral and structural way, and they reflect the organisation’s vision and values. While policies are linked to implementation, they are more abstract in nature and are primarily focused on establishing a framework for action rather than the specific actions themselves. Policies also reflect the dominant discourse or perspective on the issue, shaping how the organisation approaches prevention, protection, prosecution, provision of services or partnerships to address gender-based violence.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Prevalence

Prevalence and incidence estimates refer to the measurement or estimation of the frequency or extent of a specific problem or phenomenon and allows us to form an approximate idea of the true scale of the problem. Prevalence refers to data (and data collection) measurement or estimation of the frequency or extent of different forms of violence experienced by individuals based on their social positions and groupings. This includes age, class, (dis)ability, ethnicity/racialisation, sex, gender, sexual orientation, and functional position within the research-performing organisation.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Prevention

Prevention refers to a set of measures and strategies aimed at stopping gender-based violence from occurring in the first place, by addressing the root causes of violence and promoting changes in social and cultural patterns of behaviour and attitudes. These measures may include awareness-raising initiatives, educational campaigns and materials, training for professionals, and the development of policies and procedures. The ultimate goal of prevention is to create a safe and inclusive environment that is free from all forms of gender-based violence.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Prosecution

Prosecution refers to legal proceedings against suspected perpetrators of gender-based violence, including criminal and civil offences, as well as internal disciplinary grievance procedures. In research-performing organisations, prosecution involves having clear processes, procedures, and infrastructure for dealing with perpetrators, including possible disciplinary action, warnings, suspensions, rehabilitation, and termination of employment and study, as legally appropriate. It also involves having internal and external resources, training, and expertise for designing and implementing these processes, procedures, and infrastructure, as well as liaising with legal, police, and criminal justice organisations and professionals.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Protection

Protection refers to measures and actions taken to ensure the safety and meet the needs of potential or actual victims of gender-based violence. It includes cooperative efforts to protect individuals from any form of gender-based violence and reporting incidents of abuse or harassment. Protection is often implemented on a case-by-case basis and can involve measures such as avoiding contact between the victim and the perpetrator, providing special provisions for those reporting incidents, and suspending the supervision of students by alleged perpetrators during investigations. In research-performing organisations, protection requires clear procedures and infrastructure for reporting incidents, training and expertise for those responsible for implementing these procedures, and designated contact points for victims to seek help and support.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Protocol

A protocol is a document that prescribes what will happen in case inappropriate behaviour is reported in an institutional context. It provides a step-by-step guide on how incidents of gender-based violence are reported, addressed and resolved in the institution.

Source:

Madesi, Vasia, Polykarpou, Panagiota, Mergaert, Lut, & Wuiame, Nathalie. (2023). Developing a Protocol for addressing gender-based violence in research and higher education institutions: UniSAFE guidelines. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.8355181 

Provision of services

The provision of services refers to the support services provided to victims, families, perpetrators, and bystanders of gender-based violence, as well as the professionals who provide these services. These services can include legal counselling, psychological support, medical aid, and other specialised training to address the needs of the respective target groups. It is important that these services are widely known and accessible to all staff and students, not just potential victims and perpetrators, and managers and supervisors. The provision of services overlaps with the protection and prosecution measures, highlighting the difficulty of clear-cut delineation and the need to consider how a measure can contribute to multiple Ps.

Sources:
Strid, S., Humbert, A. L., Hearn, J., Bondestam, F., & Husu, L. (2021). UniSAFE D3.1: Theoretical and Conceptual Framework. Public deliverable submitted to the European Commission 30/04/2021. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7333232

Survivor The term survivor refers to a person who has experienced any form of gender-based violence and has lived through the experience. The term is used to acknowledge – better than the term “victim” does – the strength and resilience of individuals who have faced such violence and highlights their agency in overcoming the trauma. It is a term that respects the individual’s right to define themselves and their experiences.
Victim The term victim refers to an individual who has experienced gender-based violence or sexual harassment. It is important to note that different terminology is used in the toolkit, and the terms “complainant” or “survivor” may also be used to describe the same individual, ensuring sensitivity and clear communication to the experiences of those impacted by gender-based violence and harassment.
Victim-centred approach Adopting a victim-centred approach means placing the needs and priorities of victims/survivors of violence at the forefront of any response. This entails “prioritizing listening to the victim(s), avoiding re-traumatization, and systematically focusing on their safety, rights, well-being, expressed needs and choices, thereby giving back as much control to victim(s) as feasible and ensuring the empathetic and sensitive delivery of services and accompaniment in a non-judgmental manner.
Whistleblower

A whistleblower is an individual, either internal or external to an organisation, who comes forward with a disclosure in the public interest. Their aim is to expose instances of neglect or abuses occurring within the organisation or its affiliated entities, which pose a threat to individuals, standards, quality, integrity, or reputation.

Sources:
Transparency International. (n.d.). The Anti-Corruption Plain Language Guide. Retrieved July 7, 2023, from https://www.transparency.org/en/publications/the-anti-corruption-plain-language-guide