Myths about sexual violence are often based on victim-blaming attitudes. It’s important to understand that rape is never OK and it is never the fault of the survivor, but always the fault of the perpetrator.
Myth 1: It happened because you drank too much or you asked for it by being seductive, careless, high, etc. Reality: Alcohol is not a cause of rape. It is a tool used to facilitate rape. Perpetrators often offer alcohol to their victims, ensuring that they become intoxicated and lose judgment, rendering the victim helpless. Drinking is not an invitation for sexual activity. No one deserves to be raped or abused. Perpetrators who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs are still responsible for their actions and regardless of behaviour or their state of mind.
Myth 2: “Your clothes were too revealing.” Reality: Your outfit does not determine your consent. Clothing, or lack thereof, is not consent. Women should be free to wear whatever they want to express themselves.
Myth 3: “You were leading them on.” Reality: Whether or not you were romantically or sexually interested in a person, you do not owe the person anything. Flirting or perceptions of flirting are not indicative of an interest in engaging in sexual activity. Consent can be retracted at any time.
Myth 4: “You should have fought back.” Reality: Trauma triggers physical reactions that are not always controllable. Many sexual assault survivors experience tonic immobility, which is when the brain’s defence mechanism is to tell the body to freeze. It is not always possible to “fight back,” especially in situations when the assailant is bigger, stronger, or holds power (physical or mental) or a weapon. 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 5: “It’s not a big deal.” Reality: Only you can decide what effect the sexual assault has had on you. It may seem minor to others, but it may be major to you.
Myth 6: “You didn’t say no, so how were they supposed to know?” Reality: Consent is not not saying no. Consent is an enthusiastic affirmation of sexual activity. You do not need to say no for it to be considered rape or sexual abuse, anything done without your consent was not approved by you.
Myth 7: “If you’re dating or married to them, it’s not considered rape.” Reality: Many survivors of rape and sexual abuse were hurt by someone the they know, trust, or love. Rape by your husband or partner is still rape. If you did not give consent, it was rape.
Myth 8: “If you experienced orgasm, it wasn’t rape.” Reality: The body has physical reactions that are not always controllable. Natural lubrication, erection, ejaculation, or orgasms do not mean you enjoyed or consented to what happened. Think about this: someone can tickle you and you can hate it but still laugh.
Myth 9: “You can’t just decide not to have sex after they’re already turned on.” Reality: Consent is retractable; a person can change their mind at any time. Your partner is responsible for respecting your decision to stop.
Myth 10: “It was your fault.” Reality: Sexual violence is never the survivor’s fault. The only person to blame is the perpetrator.
Myth 11: “Rape happens only to “certain” types of women.” Reality: 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 12: “Rape and sexual assault are about sexual attraction and gratification.” Reality: Rape and sexual assault are all about control and domination.
Myth 13: “When it comes to sex, men can be provoked to “a point of no return.” Reality: 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 14: “If a person goes to their date’s room on the first date, it implies they are willing to have sex.”
Reality: Nothing is ever implied, consent must always be clear. Date rapes are a frequent occurrence in 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 15: “Rape is usually violent and involves a stranger.” Reality: Most sexual assault cases 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 16: “Most people report rape or sexual assault to the police.” Reality: Rape and sexual assault are two of the most underreported crimes in our society. Estimates show 50-90% of rapes go unreported.
Myth 17: “It is ok to pressure or talk someone into sexual activity.” Reality: 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 18: “When someone says no, they really mean yes.” Reality: 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 19: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals deserve to be raped because of their lifestyle.” Reality: No one deserves to be raped. This is an excuse used by perpetrators who commit rape as a hate crime against LGBTQ+ individuals.
Myth 20: “People who commit sexual assaults are abnormal perverts or mentally ill.” Reality: 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.
Myth 21: “Sexual assaults most often occur in public or outdoors.”
Reality: Most of rape or sexual assault victimisations occur at or near the victim’s home, and at or near the home of a friend, relative, or acquaintance.
Myth 22: “People that have been sexually assaulted will be hysterical and crying.”
Reality: Everyone responds differently to trauma- some may laugh, some may cry, and others will not show any emotions.
Myth 23: “If a parent teaches a child to stay away from strangers they won’t get raped.”
Reality: 60% of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows outside the family, and 30% are assaulted by family members.
Myth 24: “Being sexually assaulted by someone of the same gender can make a person gay or lesbian.”
Reality: The assault is typically not based on the sexual preferences of the victim or rapist, and therefore does not change the victim’s sexual orientation.
Myth 25: “People with disabilities are at low risk for sexual assault.”
Reality: People with disabilities are victims of sexual assault twice as much as people without disabilities.
Myth 26: “Sex workers cannot be raped because they are selling sex.”
Reality: Sex workers have the right to give and withhold consent to any sexual activity, and therefore, can be raped just like anyone else.
Myth 27: “Getting help is expensive for survivors of assault.”
Reality: Services such as counselling and advocacy are offered for free or at a low cost by sexual assault service providers.
Myth 28: “There is nothing we can do to prevent sexual violence.”
Reality: There are many ways you can help prevent sexual violence including intervening as a bystander to protect someone who may be at risk. Create awareness in your community, be there for those who need help.