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Rape Myths

Rape myths are false beliefs people hold about sexual assault that shift blame from the perpetrator to the survivor. Rape myths have grown out of the long-standing gender roles, acceptance of violence, and incorrect information concerning sexual violence that exist in our society.
These false statements not only shame survivors into silence; they also hurt our community’s general knowledge of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. The most effective way to confront and tackle rape myths is to educate yourself on the facts and respond honestly.


Myth: Rape happens only to “certain” types of women.
Fact: Any person of any gender, age, race, class, religion, occupation, physical ability, sexual identity, or appearance can be raped. The perpetrator does not choose the victim because they are young, pretty, or provocatively dressed; the perpetrator chooses the victim who is vulnerable. The perpetrator may select a victim who is smaller or weaker than they are, who is alone or isolated, who is incapacitated or handicapped in some way, or who does not suspect what is about to happen.  


Myth: Rape and sexual assault are about sexual attraction and gratification.
Fact: Rape and sexual assault are all about control and domination.


Myth: It’s not really rape when a person changes their mind in the middle of sexual activity.
Fact: Consent is retractable; a person can change their mind at any time. Their partner is responsible for respecting their decision to stop.


Myth: When it comes to sex, men can be provoked to “a point of no return.”
Fact: Men are physically able to stop at any point during sexual activity. Rape is not an act of impulse or uncontrollable passion; it is an intentional act of violence. Women can also be perpetrators of rape and are also able to stop at any point.


Myth: If a person goes to their date’s room on the first date, it implies they are willing to have sex.
Fact: Nothing is ever implied, consent must always be clear. Date rapes make up 50-75% of all reported rapes. The best way to prevent a bad situation is communication. If you are not sure what the other person wants, just ask. You cannot continue without consent.


Myth: Rape is usually violent and involves a stranger.
Fact: Over 80% of sexual assaults on college campuses are committed by someone the victim knows. Many rapes involve force or the threat of force, but rapes are also committed while the victim is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or when asleep.


Myth: A victim must have “asked for it” by being seductive, drunk, careless, high, etc.
Fact: No one asks to be violated, abused, injured, or humiliated. Perpetrators who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs are still responsible for their actions and regardless of behavior, no one deserves to be raped.  


Myth: If a person doesn’t fight back, they weren’t really raped.
Fact: Whatever a person does to survive is the appropriate action. Rape can be life threatening, especially when a rapist uses a weapon or force. Submission is not the same as cooperation. There are many reasons why a victim might not physically fight their attacker including shock, fear, threats or the size and strength of the attacker.


Myth: There are a lot of false rape reports. 
Fact: Rapes are no more likely to be falsely reported than any other felony. The FBI estimates that, at most, 2% of reported rapes are false. Because 90% of rapes on college campuses are not reported, it’s especially important that we take each report seriously.


Myth: Most people report rape or sexual assault to the police.
Fact: Rape and sexual assault are two of the most underreported crimes in our society. Estimates show 50-90% of rapes go unreported. Factoring unreported rapes together with the odds of an arrest being made and the chances of getting a felony conviction, only 6% of rapists will ever spend a day in jail. In other words: 15 of 16 rapists walk free.


Myth: It is ok to pressure or talk someone into sexual activity.
Fact: No, this falls into the category of coercion. Coercion is not consent. Consent must always be affirmative: freely given. Coercion is a tactic used to intimidate, trick, or force someone to have sex with them. 
 
Myth: If you wouldn’t have been drinking, you wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted.  
Fact: Alcohol is a weapon that some perpetrators use to control their victim and render them helpless. As part of their plan, a perpetrator may encourage the victim to use alcohol, or identify an individual who is already incapacitated. Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of many tools that perpetrators use. 
 
Myth: When someone says no, they really mean yes.
Fact: Yes means yes. When someone says yes, they are explicitly giving consent. Silence does not mean consent. It is the responsibility of the person initiating or escalating sexual activity to gain consent at each and every act, every time. 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.


Myth: If a person has an orgasm then they were not actually sexually assaulted.
Fact: Orgasm does not mean that someone “enjoyed” sex, or that they wanted it. Orgasm can be a natural biological reaction that someone can’t control; it doesn’t mean that forced or coerced sexual activity was consensual. Often this is used to silence the survivor.


Myth: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals deserve to be raped because of their lifestyle.
Fact: No one deserves to be raped. This is an excuse used by perpetrators who commit rape as a hate crime against LGBTQ+ individuals.


Myth: Men can’t be sexually assaulted.
Fact: Somewhere between one in thirty-three males are sexually assaulted while in college. College is also the time when men are most at risk. As with all male survivors can be supported best by talking about the issue in an inclusive way, avoiding the presumptions that all survivors are female or that all male victims are gay. 


Myth: People who commit sexual assaults are abnormal perverts or mentally ill.
Fact: Sexual offenders come from all educational, occupational, racial and cultural backgrounds. They are “ordinary” and “normal” individuals who sexually assault victims to assert power and control over them and inflict violence, humiliation and degradation.


(From: http://well.wvu.edu/articles/rape_myths_and_facts, https://sapac.umich.edu/article/52, and http://titleix.uconn.edu/more-information/sexual-assault/sexual-assault-myths/)