Debunking Myths About Sexual Violence

TW: Sexual Assault

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.

MYTH: Drinking, flirting, and dressing a certain way is "asking for it." 

FACT: No one is EVER "asking for it." Clothing, behavior, past sexual history, and intoxication DO NOT equal consent. You have a right to drink and dress how you want without become the target of sexual violence. It is always the assailant's fault. Clothes and alcohol don't cause rape - rapists cause rape.

MYTH: Sexual assault doesn't happen that often.

FACT: There is an average of 293,066 victims ages 12 or older of rape and sexual assault every year in the United States alone. This means that 1 sexual assault occurs every 107 seconds in the U.S.. 

MYTH: If you don't fight back, it isn't assault.

FACT: There is more than fight and flight. There are actually four common responses to sexual assault - fight, flight, freeze, and fawn. All of these responses are valid responses caused by the body when experiencing a traumatic event. Manipulation and threats can also be used to intimidate and control victims. Freezing is a completely natural response - your brain is doing what it must to help you survive. 

MYTH: Most victims are assaulted by strangers.

FACT: Most sexual assaults are actually committed by someone the victim knows. Approximately 80% of women who reported a sexual assault knew their assailant. Assault frequently happens at or close to home. The misconception that sexual assault is only created by aggressive strangers in dark alleys makes it difficult for many people to acknowledge that they have experienced an assault when it occurs at the hands of someone they know or love.

MYTH: Men can't be sexually assaulted.

FACT: Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted. In the state of Florida, approximately 1,437,000 (20.4%) have been victimized by sexual violence other than rape. This statistic does not report men who have been raped and does not include unreported crimes. Male victims who report sexual assault are frequently met with stigmatization and criticism. They may be told that their masculinity is compromised or that they weren't "tough enough" to prevent the assault. If they are assaulted by a man they may face mocking and called "gay" as a way to insult them, and if they are assaulted by a woman they may be told they just "got lucky" and must've enjoyed. Reports of sexual assault made by men are just as valid as those made by women.

MYTH: Sometimes people play hard to get an "no" really means "yes."

FACT: No does not mean "yes." No does not mean "convince me." No does not mean "hard to get." NO MEANS NO!

MYTH: Consent can't be revoked.

FACT: Consent can be revoked at any time. A person can change their mind at any time and their partner is responsible for respecting their boundaries and their decision to stop. You can revoke consent at any time before or during a sexual encounter.

MYTH: Most reports of sexual assault are false.

FACT: Reports of sexual assault are true with very few exceptions. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indicates that only 2% of reported rapes are false. This rate is no greater than false reports for other major crimes. The rare false reports of sexual assault are frequently used to undermine the 98%+ true reports of sexual assault. This mindset reenforces the fear survivors have of not being believed and can prevent many from coming forward and reporting their experience. In short - believe survivors of sexual assault. 

MYTH: You can't be assaulted by your significant other.

FACT: Nearly 30% of women and 9% of men experience sexual violence by an intimate partner. Up until the 1990s, some U.S. states still legally would not recognize that someone could be sexually assaulted by their spouse. As of 1993, all 50 states have outlawed marital rape exemptions to sexual assault laws, but many martial rape loopholes still exist in sexual assault laws today.

MYTH: We can't stop sexual violence.

FACT: There are a lot of things we can do to stop sexual violence. We can be active and involved bystanders, call out people for inappropriate behavior, believe and support survivors, and advocate for better laws. Together we can change the culture of sexual violence.