These are the lies that enable sexual violence in our culture. It is vital that as a part of dismantling this culture, we tackle the lies and distortions that we have come to even subconsciously believe, without knowing it. These myths place blame at the feet of the victim, and encourage them to see their abuse as their problem, when it never is. What these myths also do is allow perpetrators to have control and power over their victims, sometimes long after the abuse itself has ended. These myths are present in popular culture’s attitudes towards women, our medical and unfortunately some sections of our legal system. Only through busting down these incredibly powerful lies can we create a peaceful and truly safe world.
MYTH: Sexual assault won’t happen to me or to anyone I know.
FACT: Men, women and children of all ages, races, religions, and economic classes can be and have been victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault occurs in rural areas, small towns and larger cities. It is estimated that one in three girls and one six boys will be sexually assaulted by the age of eighteen. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a rape or attempted rape occurs every 5 minutes in the United States and according to the Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, every half an hour in Australia.
MYTH: Sexual assault is provoked by the victim’s actions, behaviors, or by the way they dress.
FACT: Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. Sexual assault is a violent attack on an individual, not a spontaneous crime of sexual passion. For a victim, it is a humiliating and degrading act. No one “asks” for or deserves this type of attack – no matter what they wear, drink, or behave, regardless if they’ve consented to some sexual activity with the perpetrator.
MYTH: Most sexual assaults occur between strangers.
FACT: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Studies show that approximately 80% of women reporting sexual assaults knew their assailant. Sexual assaults often take place in the home, workplace or familiar environment.
MYTH: Sexual assaults only occur in dark alleys and isolated areas.
FACT: A sexual assault can happen anywhere and at any time. The majority of assaults occur in places ordinarily thought to be safe, such as homes, cars and offices – places women known and often spend time in.
MYTH: Women falsely accuse men of sexual assault or “cry rape.”
FACT: Reported sexual assaults are true, with very few exceptions.
MYTH: Men cannot be sexually assaulted.
FACT: Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted. Current statistics indicate that one in six men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Sexual assault of men is thought to be greatly underreported.
MYTH: Most sexual assaults are interracial.
FACT: Almost all sexual assaults occur between members of the same race. Interracial rape is not common, but it does occur.
MYTH: Sexual assault results from an uncontrollable impulsive sexual urge.
FACT: Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power and control. Sexual assaults are not motivated by sexual desire. Unlike animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual urges.
MYTH: People who commit sexual assaults are mentally ill, abnormal perverts.
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.
MYTH: Victims who do not fight back have not been sexually assaulted.
FACT: Anytime someone is forced to have sex against their will, they have been sexually assaulted, regardless of whether or not they fought back. 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.