Myths and Facts
Sexual Assault/Rape myths are false beliefs people have about sexual assault that shift blame from the person committing the assault to the survivor. Myths have grown out of 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, relationship violence, and stalking. The most effective way to confront and tackle these myths is to educate yourself on the facts and respond honestly.*
FACT: Over 80% of sexual assaults on college campuses are committed by someone the victim knows. Many assaults involve force or the threat of force, but many are also committed while the victim is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, or when asleep. Most often, a dating partner, or former partner, classmate, friend, acquaintance, or co-worker is the offender of sexual assault and rape. It is important to remember that sexual violence can occur in heterosexual, same-sex, same-gender, non-gender-specific relationships.
FACT: Any person of any gender, age, race, class, religion, occupation, physical ability, sexual identity, expression, or appearance can be sexually assaulted. 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 perceived to be weaker than they are, who is alone or isolated, who is incapacitated, or who does not suspect what is about to happen.
FACT: Rape and sexual assault are about control and domination. It is intended to overpower, degrade, and humiliate the victim.
FACT: Men are physically able to stop at any point during sexual activity. Sexual assault is not an act of impulse or uncontrollable passion; it is an intentional act of violence. Women can also be perpetrators of sexual assault and are also able to stop at any point.
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 sexually assaulted or raped.
FACT: Whatever a person does to survive is the appropriate action. Rape can be life threatening, especially when a perpetrator uses a weapon or force. Submission is not the same as cooperation. There are many reasons why a victim may not physically fight, or resist, their attacker including shock, fear, threats, or the size and strength of the perpetrator. In California, lack of protest or resistance, or silence, does not mean consent.
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.
FACT: There are many reasons why a survivor of sexual violence may not report the assault to the police or the University. It is not easy to talk about being sexually assaulted and it can feel shameful. The experience of retelling what happened may cause the person to relive the trauma. Another reason for delaying a report, or not making a report, is the fear of retaliation by the offender. There is also the fear of being blamed, not being believed, and being required to go through judicial proceedings. Just because a person does not report an assault does not mean it did not happen.
FACT: Survivors of sexual violence exhibit a spectrum of responses to the assault which may include: being calm, hysteria, withdrawal, anxiety, anger, apathy, denial, and shock. Being sexually assaulted is a traumatic experience. Reaction to the assault and the length of time needed to process through the experience vary with every single person. There is no "right way" to react to being sexually assaulted. Assumptions about the way a victim "should act" may be detrimental to the victim because each person copes in different ways.
*Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response at the University of Richmond, VA