There are many myths and facts about sexual violence crimes, which make things harder for people who have experienced them. These myths are dangerous because they hide the truth and leave many women and girls who have suffered rape and sexual abuse to cope with the assault alone and in silence.
Myth: Rapists are strangers
Fact: The British crime survey in 2002 found that in fact 92% rapes were perpetrated by someone the victim knew. They could be friends, relatives, boyfriends, husbands, family, neighbours, colleagues, ex-husbands or ex-partners or the nice guy you met in a bar/club.
Myth: Being sexually assaulted by someone you know is not as bad as being sexually assaulted by a total stranger
Fact: Any sexual violence can have a devastating effect on a person’s life. Rape is harmful whether the person is attacked by a total stranger or suffers an abuse of trust by someone she already knows. It can be hard to trust anyone after being raped by someone who you thought was a friend.
Myth: It cannot be sexual assault unless there has been an act of physical violence such as beating or cutting or using or using a weapon and in some way physically injuring the victim.
Fact: Some attackers badly beat and severely injure their victim, but most do not. Any form of sexual contact without consent is a violent act in itself and is legally a crime. For many rapists, the threat of further violence, implicit or explicit, is enough to terrify their victim.
Myth: If the victim accompanied their attacker without a struggle, took a piece of clothing off or otherwise ‘helped’ that means it wasn’t rape.
Fact: Compliance does not mean consent. People do what is necessary to survive, and sometimes this means doing what the rapist asks, out of fear, not consent.
Myth: Rape only happens in dark alleys.
Fact: The majority of rapes are committed inside a building, and for many of these, in the women’s own home.
Myth: Some victims ask for it. They lead the rapist on.
Fact: It is handy to be able to blame the victim in this way – it lets the perpetrators off the hook and it helps other people to develop a false sense of safety. Rape is a violation, and the victim is often afraid that their attacker will inflict harm on them.
Myth: Rape is just sex when a woman does not want it.
Fact: Sexual assault or rape is no sex. It involves taking control of a victim’s body against their will. In many studies, rapists have admitted that rape is more about power and violence than about sex.
Myth: Rape can only happen to certain kinds of women: women who dress provocatively, women who sleep around, women who drink alcohol, or women who go out alone.
Fact: Women are not the only victims of sexual violence. Men, women, and children of all ages, persons living with disability, religious and non-religious persons are all vulnerable to sexual violence regardless of how they dress, where they live, or how they act. Yes, even you and me.
Myth: Rape is a crime of sexual needs or uncontrollable urges.
Fact: Violators can control, their sexual urges – including men who are often depicted as lacking any sense of control. Rape is a crime of violence, control, degradation and intimidation – it is about power, not desire.
Myth: The victim wanted it really.
Fact: This is part of the idea that all victims want, need or enjoy being taken by force and that they only said “no” to take away the need to feel guilty. people do not want, need or enjoy being threatened, humiliated, degraded, violated, beaten or being afraid for their lives.
Myth: The victim could have stopped the rape if they really wanted to.
Fact: Violators are often stronger than their victims and they use this physical advantage to prevent them from resisting successfully. During a sexual assault a victim could become paralysed by fear. Sometimes victims may be demobilized by a drug or threatened with weapons, fists, or with harm to their children and loved ones. Exploitation of power imbalances between the abuser and the victim – especially when they know each other – can also be used to manipulate the victim. Regardless of how much physical force the rapist used or did not use, they are the guilty party, not their victim.
Myth: If the victim doesn’t struggle or call out then they must be consenting.
Fact: Freezing during a sexual assault is a very common reaction due to the shock of the negative event, and never indicates consent. It is a completely natural, instinctive response – it is the same as when a fox is trapped in headlights. This is our body’s way of protecting ourselves from the trauma of an assault. It is easy in retrospect o say that I should have put up fight or screamed and shouted, but the reality at the time is quite different.
Myth: Survivors make up stories about rape. E.g.: She only said it because she got pregnant. He only said it because he regretted having sexual intercourse. She only said it to destroy his reputation.
Fact: Many studies have shown that the level of false reporting of sexual assault is about the same as that for any other crime: only about 2%.
Myth: A rapist is not normal. Rapists are sex-fiends, maniacs, monsters, pathetic, sick. Rapists are madmen.
Fact: Many rapists appear perfectly normal. They often have steady jobs and consensual relationships with husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends. There are very few convicted rapists who are diagnosed as having psychiatric problems. Studies have shown that around 6% of men will confess to rape if you describe it without using the word “rape”.