There are many myths and beliefs about sexual violence.
Assumptions and misconceptions about sexual violence are deep rooted in society and are partly fuelled by media reporting. These myths often reduce empathy for the victim and can even lead to people blaming the victim. Victims may also experience guilt and shame following an assault, which means that they may feel unable to talk about what happened to them. Some common myths include:
Myth: Sexual assault is an act of lust and passion that can’t be controlled.
Fact: Sexual assault is about power and control and is not motivated by sexual gratification.
Myth: If a victim of sexual assault does not fight back, they must have thought the assault was not that bad or they wanted it.
Fact: Many survivors experience tonic immobility or a “freeze response” during an assault where they physically cannot move or speak.
Myth: A lot of victims lie about being raped or give false reports.
Fact: Only 2-8% of rapes are falsely reported, the same percentage as for other crimes.
Myth: A person cannot sexually assault their partner or spouse.
Fact: In 2002 the UK Home Office published the findings of a British Crime Survey to which 6,944 women had responded. Nearly half (45%) of rapes reported to the survey were committed by perpetrators who were victims’ partners at the time of the attack. Strangers were responsible for only 8% of rapes reported to the survey. The survey also found that partner rape entails the highest occurrence of multiple rape (62%) and attacks by partners and ex-partners are more than twice as likely to result in some injury to the victim (39%) as attacks by strangers (19%)
Myth: Sexual assaults most often occur in public or outdoors.
Fact: The majority of rape or sexual assaults occur at or near the victim’s home or the home of a friend, relative, or acquaintance.
Myth: People that have been sexually assaulted will be hysterical and crying.
Fact: Everyone responds differently to trauma – some may laugh, some may cry, and others will not show any emotions.
Myth: Men are not victims of sexual violence.
Fact: More than 1,000 men report being raped to the police every year and the police and government say this is likely to be less than 10% of the real number.
Myth: Wearing revealing clothing, behaving provocatively, or drinking a lot means the victim was “asking for it”.
Fact: The perpetrator selects the victim ; the victim’s behaviour or clothing choices do not mean that they are consenting to sexual activity.
Myth: If a parent teaches a child to stay away from strangers, they won’t get raped.
Fact: Most cases of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows, either a family member, friend of the family or trusted adult.
Myth: Being sexually assaulted by someone of the same gender can make a person gay or lesbian.
Fact: 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: People with disabilities are at low risk for sexual assault.
Fact: People with disabilities are victims of sexual assault twice as much as people without disabilities.
Myth: Prostitutes cannot be raped because they are selling sex.
Fact: Prostitutes have the right to give and withhold consent to any sexual activity, and therefore, can be raped just like anyone else.