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Florence-Olivia Genesse

Member of the Durham Law School


Florence-Olivia Genesse is a doctoral student at the University of Durham Faculty of Law, specializing in sex equality issues under international and domestic law. Her research interests are situated at the intersections of international criminal law, feminist legal theory and sexual offences.

Ms. Genesse holds a bachelor’s degree (B.A.) from Bishop’s University (Canada) where she was awarded several prestigious academic honors. As an advocate for change, she spearheaded the development of the first policy for the prevention of sexual violence at her undergraduate university. As the first large-scale sexual violence prevention policy, Ms. Genesse was instrumental in drafting legislation that resulted in key legislative changes. Notably, her initiative has been highlighted as an example of effective, peer- led sexual violence programs, contributing, ultimately, to Quebec's National Assembly adopting Bill 151, An Act to Prevent and Fight Sexual Violence in Higher Education Institutions.

In 2022, Ms. Genesse obtained her Master’s degree (M.L.A.) from Johns Hopkins University (United States) where she graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. As a former Roszel C. Thomsen fellow at Johns Hopkins, her academic work has drawn the attention of national and international organizations including Plan International, The Canadian Women’s Foundation and The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). Ms. Genesse has also served as policy consultant and legal expert on law reform across North America and Europe and has worked with survivors of sexual violence for over a decade.

Stemming from the realization that her own studies have taught her the importance of the democratization of research, not just for fellow academics, but also for those who don't have access to higher education or who are not in this field of study, she created The Sis’ TikTok and Instagram channels (@the.sisofficial). Within the first year of its existence, the community around this channel has grown to over 400,000 people from all over the world, exchanging views on feminist issues. For this contribution, she was recognized as one of the 15 most influential Quebecers of 2022. Her work on social media publicizing the 'Signal for Help' – a gesture that can be used by those at risk of abuse – saved the lives of two women and has now been featured in 1,800 news stories with a potential reach of 1.1 billion people. Ms. Genesse firmly believes that her contribution to the world will consist in even more effective advocacy culminating in the introduction of law and policy reform on issues of sexual violence and gender equality that will have a real impact on the defense of human rights and on the lives of women and girls around the world.

Current Research

Ms. Genesse’s doctoral research on the law of sexual offences will be conducted under the supervision of Professor Clare McGlynn KC (Hon) and Professor Karamvir Chadha. Her doctoral thesis will build on her previous work she has done on the issue of sexual violence. In it, she will investigate a new conceptualization of rape as a crime of sex inequality. Drawing on domestic and international law experience, she will advance that rape is a crime of ‘sex inequality’ and that domestic law fails to recognize this crime specifically. The failings of criminal justice systems across the world to properly address the crime of rape, despite well-meaning attempts at reform, is a justice-gap. The thesis will address this gap by developing a new conceptual approach culminating in a new definition of rape. In addition, she will draft model legislation that may be adopted by legislatures redefining rape, drawing on emerging developments in the field of feminist legal methodologies. 

Media Contacts

Ms. Genesse is available for media inquiries/interviews to speak about subjects in which she is an expert including: human rights issues & equality issues as well as law & crime (rape law, violence against women, criminal law).

Public Outreach and Media Appearances

Florence-Olivia et Marie-Emmanuelle Genesse: De Véritables Influenceuses, Radio-Canada (December 2022)

The Genesse Sisters: The 15 Most Influential Quebecers of 2022, La Presse (November 2022)

On Sexual Assault & Arcade Fire: Legal Expert Calls for Further Reform of Rape Laws CTV News (August 2022)

Le Signe de Deux Québécoises Sauve à Nouveau Une Femme Enlevée, Journal De Montreal (April 2022)

Turning Social Media Into Social Change: Johns Hopkins Graduate Student Florence-Olivia Genesse's Feminist TikTok Channel is Changing Minds—and Saving Lives, Johns Hopkins University (February 2022)

Thwarted Tennessee Kidnapping Shows that Viral Hand Signal, Popularized in Quebec, is Saving Lives, CTV News (April 2022)

A Teenage Girl in Kentucky Was Rescued from a 61-year-old Man After she Flashed Viral TikTok Hand Gestures Indicating Domestic Abuse, Business Insider (November 2021)

Creators of the TikTok Video that Helped Rescue a U.S. Teen Bring Feminism to the Masses, CTV News (November 2021)

Missing Girl Is Rescued After Using Hand Signal From TikTok, TVA Nouvelles (November 2021)

Deux Québécoises Derrière Ce Signe Qui a Sauvé l’Ado Kidnappée, Journal De Montreal (November 2021)

Un Signe De La Main Qui Sauve Des Vies Popularisés Par Des Québécoises, 98.5FM Montréal (November 2021)



Research groups

Centre for Criminal Law and Criminal Justice (CCLCJ)

Durham Human Rights and Public Law Centre (HRPLC)

Gender and Law at Durham (GLAD)

Law and Global Justice at Durham (LGJD)

Durham Centre for Law and Philosophy (DCLP)

Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA)

Research interests

  • Criminal Law and Procedure
  • Equality
  • Human rights
  • Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Law
  • International and Comparative Law
  • Law and Inequality
  • Legal Theory and Jurisprudence