Myth: Rape could never happen to me because it only happens to certain types of women.
Reality: Individuals of any age, gender, sexuality, nationality, socioeconomic status, race, etc. can be victims of sexual assault.
Myth: You cannot believe women who say they were sexually assaulted or raped because they probably are trying to get revenge on a guy they regret hooking up with.
Reality: Women do not lie about being raped with anymore frequency than men or women lie about any other crime. Survivors do not normally lie about being raped. Sexual assault is the most under-reported crime according to National Crime Victimization Survey.
Myth: If women did not dress slutty and/or get drunk, they would not be sexually assaulted or raped.
Reality: Nothing can force a perpetrator to rape or sexually assault a victim. Nothing the victim is doing can provoke rape. Perpetrators are solely responsible for their own actions. Their choices to be sexually violent cannot be justified by anything the victim is doing. When someone is robbed or mugged, we do not blame the victim, thus we should not be blaming the victims of sexual assault.
Myth: Men rape women when they have been sexually deprived or when they are sexually aroused.
Reality: Sexual assault is caused more by the desire to have power and control over the victim. It has little to do with a desire for sex. Many men who have gone long periods of time without sexual interactions do not rape women.
Myth: Rapists are mentally ill.
Reality: Men who rape appear to be ordinary, everyday guys. Only a tiny percentage of men who rape can be categorized as mentally ill. The vast majority of men who rape are indistinguishable from your friends.
Myth: Most rapes are committed by strangers in dark alleys.
Reality: Three out of four rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, like a friend or an acquaintance. This often happens in a place that seems safe, like the victim’s home.
Myth: Women secretly want to be raped.
Reality: Women do NOT want to be raped. This mindset is dangerous and only serves to try to justify the perpetrator’s violence against the victim. A woman may want sex, but her consent MUST be clear.
Myth: Men can’t be raped.
Reality: Men can be and are sexually assaulted. Their attackers are often other men, but can also be women. Remember, sexual assault is more about power and control than it is about sex.
Myth: “If the victim fought back, they probably could have escaped the assault. That’s what I would have done.”
Reality: Traumatic experiences impact people in different ways. Many times when faced with a violent situation, a victim might physically “freeze.” This is a decision the brain makes on its own to try to protect the individual. Sometimes a “fight” response happens and sometimes a “flight” response happens. Many times this is not in the victim’s control. Even if the victim is able to make decisions about what action to take, they might believe that fighting back could put them in worse danger.
Myth: “That person seems too calm. I don’t think they were actually assaulted. They’re trying to get attention or trying to get the accused person in trouble.”
Reality: As previously stated, traumatic experiences impact people in different ways. Someone might appear very calm after being assaulted, but this is often a coping mechanism just like any other variation of coping mechanism. Everyone reacts differently to traumatic events and whether the victim is being honest or not cannot be determined by their outward demeanor.
Myth: If sexual assault victims wait a long time to report, they are lying.
Reality: There are several reasons why a victim may not report right away. It is often difficult for the victim to tell their story and they will probably have to repeat themselves multiple times to multiple people if they report. Retelling their story can be very traumatizing. They might feel as if they do not have enough evidence and they will not be believed. Research has shown that 97% of rapists will not spend one day in jail, thus why would a victim want to endure the stress of reporting if it is so unlikely that justice will be served? They might fear people finding out about the assault and shaming them or blaming them for what happened. They might also fear retaliation from the person they are accusing or they might honestly not want the person to get into trouble. They may not believe what happened was that bad, so they may minimize it and not think it is worth pursing legally. It is frequently more comfortable emotionally if a victim of a traumatic event tries to convince themselves that something that happened was not as bad as it seems. The reason of not reporting immediately could also be as simple as the person just being in complete shock over the event and questioning if it even happened. Traumatic events impact how memories are made in the brain, thus the event may not have felt real if the victim is remembering things sporadically or in fragments. There are many more reasons an individual may not report a sexual assault. About 2/3 of sexual assaults go unreported due to these barriers and fears.
Myth: A wife/husband cannot be sexually assaulted by their spouse.
Reality: Sexual assault is sexual assault, no matter who is involved. Marriage does not dismiss the fact that sexual activity without consent is a crime and an act of violence.
Myth: If an individual goes to someone else’s house, apartment, property, etc., they are responsible for placing themselves at risk of being assaulted by the person who lives there.
Reality: As previously stated, sexual assault is never the victim’s fault.
Myth: It’s not really sexual assault, it was just a mistake or a miscommunication.
Reality: Sexual assault is a crime. By law, sexual assault is defined as sexual activity without consent. There is no grey area of whether or not consent was given. If you are unsure if your partner is consensual, it is your responsibility to verbally clarify.
Myth: When a woman says no, she really means yes.
Reality: YES means YES.
Myth: If the woman is sexually aroused or orgasms during the sexual encounter, she was not assaulted.
Reality: Orgasms are a biological response and do not mean that the woman enjoyed the experience or that she had consented. This inaccurate reasoning is often used to try to shut down a woman from reporting or telling people what happened.