Myths & Facts About Sexual Assaults
MYTH: The primary motive for rape is sexual.
FACT: The motive for rape is aggression and power, not sex. Rapists have a desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade their victims. Rape is not the result of “pent up” sexual desire, as many offenders report that they do not enjoy the sex act per se during rape. In fact, most offenders have access to a sexual relationship with a spouse or lover.
MYTH: People are sexually assaulted because they “ask for it” in some way.
FACT: Attempts to shift the burden of blame from the offender to the victim/survivor by implying that “he/she asked for it” are common. There is nothing a person does or does not do to “deserve” a sexual assault – the way a person dresses, the amount of alcohol consumption, or sexual history of a person are often used as excuses to justify the rapist’s behavior. By blaming the victim/survivor, the attention is directed away from the offender, diminishing the offender’s responsibility for the attack. Blaming a person for the rape because of how the person acts or what the person wears is like blaming a bank for being robbed because it “tempted” the thief with all that money.
MYTH: A person can nearly always prevent an assault by resisting the attacker.
FACT: Every sexual assault is unique and the issue of resistance and submission should be evaluated individually. Resistance could deter an attack or it could conceivably increase one’s chances of injury and perhaps result in death. The victim/survivor needs to do whatever they feel comfortable doing to extricate themself from the situation. The person should rely on their instincts and whatever the person does is correct for them. Even if the person must submit, this does not imply consent, and in fact, may keep them alive.
MYTH: Many people falsely report rape as a means of revenge or to get attention.
FACT: Reported sexual assaults are true, with very few exceptions. The rate of “false reports” of rape (fabricated stories) is 2% to 3%, no different than that for other crimes. (Schafran, L.H. (1993). “Writing and reading about rape: A primer.” St. John’s Law Review, 66, 979-1045.) The general misconception of a high rate of false reports of sexual assaults may be confused with observations of low conviction rates of offenders.
MYTH: Rapists are easily identifiable by their physical appearance, actions or words.
FACT: There is no standard mental or physical profile that defines a rapist. A rapist can be someone of any age, race, economic background, belief system or culture. Although the stereotype of the deranged stranger rapist abounds in our society, stranger rapes only make up around 20% of all sexual assaults and even then the stranger may not be a mentally disturbed person. The vast majority of rapists are people the victim/survivor knows, people she/he sees in day-to-day life.
MYTH: Women owe men sex under some circumstances.
FACT: Sex is not a commodity to be bought and sold, nor is there any ownership of another’s sexuality. Instead, we should have the freedom to make sexual choices regardless of the circumstances. Paying for dinner and a movie does not give someone the right to demand sex for repayment, nor should someone feel obligated to have sex because of these circumstances.
MYTH: Only the young or beautiful may be sexually assaulted.
FACT: Victim/survivors range in age from a few months to 90 years old and come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Rapists tend to choose victims for their perceived vulnerability and availability, without regard to their physical appearance. Attributing a sexual assault to a victim/survivor’s attractiveness perpetuates the myth that rape is primarily motivated by sexual desire. This myth inappropriately places blame and responsibility onto the victim/survivor because of her/his physical attributes.
MYTH: When a woman says “no,” she might really mean, “yes.”
FACT: This myth is common in dating situations. When a person says “no,” that person’s partner must assume she means nothing other than “no.” It is also vital to point out that if a person does not explicitly consent to an act of sex, in the form of a “yes” or similar phrasing, that person has not consented. Silence on a person’s behalf must be taken as a “no” rather than consent. Rape is not just a matter of miscommunication, but communication is vital in sexual situations.