Common Myths About Rape and Sexual Assault

Rape culture is a culture that is permissive of and normalizes sexual violence. It is built on a rigid system of gender norms and expectations, and works to blame victims instead of perpetrators. Combined with the power of media, government, and the entertainment industry (just to name a few), rape culture perpetuates a cycle of myths that build on one another in order to categorize and doubt survivors. Let’s break some of these myths down, and get to the truth.

Myth: A lot of people lie about being raped or sexually assaulted.

Truth: False reports are extremely rare. In fact, studies indicate that the prevalence of false allegations is between 2% and 10% (Lisak et al, 2010).

Myth: Sexual assault is usually committed by strangers.

Truth: About 70% of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance.

Myth: People provoke rape by the way they dress, act, drink, etc.

Truth: Assault is never the victim’s fault, and is always the fault of the perpetrator. What someone wears, what someone says, and how someone acts is not an invitation for violence.

Myth: Men cannot be raped.

Truth: 15% of college men are victims of sexual assault (Fisher et al, 2010). Male survivors fall across the sexuality spectrum.

Myth: People who don’t fight back haven’t been raped.

Truth: People respond to trauma in all different ways. Some people will fight back, but some people will freeze as a coping mechanism in response to a threat or dangerous situation. Both responses are valid, and neither makes the assault more or less ok. Assault is never ok.

Myth: Alcohol can cause good people to sexually assault someone when they otherwise wouldn’t.

Fact: Alcohol is never an excuse for sexually assaulting someone.

Myth: People rape because they are overly aroused sexually or have been sexually deprived.

Fact: Sexual assault is not about sex. It is about exerting control and power over someone.

Myth: Asking for consent ruins the mood.

Fact: Open communication about what each partner wants means better sex. If you think talking will ruin the mood, think about why? If you’re scared to be told no, then that mindset is problematic.

Keep these in mind when someone blames a survivor or makes a rape joke. Equipped with the truth, you can help to start break down rape culture and and create a healthier environment around sex and sexuality.

References

Fisher, Bonnie S., et al. “The Sexual Victimization of College Women.” U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs, Dec. 2000, doi:10.1037/e377652004-001.

Lisak, David, et al. “False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases.” 
Violence Against Women, vol. 16, no. 12, 2010, pp. 1318–1334., doi:10.1177/1077801210387747.