Many myths exist in our society about sexual assault that serve to justify sexual violence. Rape myths often involve victim-blaming statements about sexual assault such as, “They wouldn’t have gotten raped if they hadn’t been walking alone at night,” or “What did they expect would happen if they went upstairs with them?” These myths work to place the blame on the wrong person (the victim or survivor) instead of where it belongs (on the perpetrator).
Fact: It can happen to anyone. While most victims of sexual assault are women, anyone can be a victim regardless of age, race, national origin, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, educational status, or ability.
Fact: Rape is an act of violence. It is a life-threatening experience. While sexual attraction may be influential, power, control and anger are the primary motives. Sexual assault is not simply a “crime of passion” where the perpetrator “losses control.” Sexual Penetration without consent is rape.
Fact: One of the biggest myths about rape is that it happens out of sexual desire. Many people have sexual desires, but not everyone commits sexual assault. This leads us to blame the victim and fail to hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions.
- Survivors of rape, such as children or the elderly, are not always those society would consider sexually attractive.
- Seventy percent of sexual assault are partially or fully planned in advance
- Most rapists have available sexual relationships.
- Men and women have the same ability to control their “biological urges” to have sex
Fact: Most, about 90 percent, of sexual assault survivors know their perpetrator: a neighbor, friend, acquaintance, co-worker, classmate, spouse, partner, or ex-partner.
Fact: The idea that perpetrators are all psychopaths is not true. Crimes committed by the mentally ill are very different from crimes of sexual violence. Perpetrators of sexual violene are just as likely to exhibit signs of mental illness as the general population.
Fact: The idea that women entice men to rape them or that they really want it is also not true. No person deserves to be raped, and no person asks to be raped or wants it irrespective of their attire. This myth again shows the extent to which sexual assault is sexualized in our society. What the victim was wearing in no way makes their responsible for the assault.
Fact: Sexual Assault is never the victim’s fault. No behavior or choice makes it okay for someone to assault someone. By law, if a person is incapable of consenting or resisting, because of the effects of alcohol or other drugs, it can be considered rape or sexual assault if the person knew, or reasonably should have known, that the victim was mentally and/or physically incapacitated. Alcohol can also be a weapon that some people who rape use to control their victim and render them helpless. As part of their plan, a rapist will encourage the victim to use alcohol, or identify an individual who is already drunk. Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of the many tools that people who rape use.
Fact: No means no. When someone says no they mean no. It should never be assumed that there is some underlying meaning behind that and that they really mean yes. If you are ever unclear about your partner’s wishes, ask for clarification. If your partner says no or seems unsure, respect that person and their wishes.
Fact: There are many reasons that a victim any choose or not be able to fight off their perpetrator. This threat of heightened physical violence may make it safer for someone to not fight back. If the victim is threatened with negative consequences (e.g., lose of job, being “outed,” negative rumors) or experiencing symptoms of shock they may not fight back. This does not mean the sex is consensual. The survivor needs to do whatever they feel comfortable doing to handle or cope with the situation.
Fact: Gay and straight men are victimized by people who rape for the same reasons as women. Men are less likely than women to report a rape; only one in 100 report the crime. Men are less likely to be believed by law enforcement personnel, making it traumatic to report.
Fact: An orgasm does not mean that someone “enjoyed” the rape, or that they wanted it. An orgasm can be natural biological reactions that someone can’t control; it does not mean that forced of coerced sexual activity was consensual. Often this is used to silence the survivor.
Fact: There are no statistics that support the idea that LGBT individuals are more likely to commit sexual assault or be sex offenders than heterosexual males. In fact, sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual men.
Fact: In 93 percent of assaults, the rapist and victim are of the same race. In 3 percent of sexual assault cases black men did rape white women, while in 4 percent of the cases white men raped black women.
Fact: There is no standard profile that defines a perpetrator of sexual assault. They can be of any race, economic background, belief system or culture. The vast majority of victims of sexual assault know their perpetrator.
Fact: Women can and do rape men, although this is reportedly less common. Sexual assault of a man, whether by a woman or a man, is as serious of a violation as sexual assault of any survivor.