Myths about rape


Myth : Sexual assault is committed by strangers.

Reality: Sexual assault is not most often committed by strangers who jump out of bushes or wait in alleys for their victims. Over 80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.

Myth : The best way for a woman to protect herself from sexual assault is to avoid being alone at night in dark, deserted places such as alleys or parking lots.

Reality: Global statistics shows us that most assaults occur in a private home (60%) and the largest percentage of these occur in the victim's home (38%)

Myth : Women who are sexually assaulted "ask for it" by the way they dress or act.

Reality: Reports show that there is a lot of diversity in the way women who are assaulted act and dress. Any woman of any age and physical type, in almost any situation can be sexually assaulted. The number one thing convicted rapists report looking for in a victim is vulnerability, not appearance. This myth takes the responsibility of the rape away from the rapist and shifts it to the victim. No one asks to be hurt in this way.

Myth : Rape only happens to young "sexy" women.

Reality: Women from two months old to ninety years old have been sexually assaulted. According to previous accounts of rape, rapists chose women based on their vulnerability, not on their physical appearance. 

Myth : Men who sexually assault women are either mentally ill or sexually starved.

Reality: Studies of rapists state that rapists are "ordinary" or "normal" men. The majority of convicted rapists assaulted for the emotion gratification they received from the violent act, not out of sexual frustration (Helen Lenskyj, "An Analysis of Violence Against Women: A Manual for Educators and Administrators," Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1992).

Myth :Rape is a sexual act that is taken too far.

Reality: Rape is an act of violence; it involves asserting control over another person and taking their power from them. Rapists use a person's sexuality against their will as a weapon. Rapists are not men who cannot control their sexual desires; rape is most often a premeditated crime. 

Myth : Men of certain races and backgrounds are more likely to sexually assault women.

Reality: Men who commit sexual assault come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age, and social group. As well, women who are sexually assaulted are from every economic, ethnic, racial, age, and social group.

Myth : It is only sexual assault if weapons are used.

Reality: Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature that one person imposes on another. A weapon and visible physical injuries do not have to be present in order for a woman's experience to be sexual assault. 

Myth : If a woman consents to have sex at the start of making out with her boyfriend, then she is not assaulted if she changes her mind, but her partner keeps on going.

Reality: Legally, a woman has the right to change her mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If her partner does not stop at the time she changes her mind and says "no", this is sexual assault. As well, just because a woman is in a relationship with someone or has sex with a person before does not mean that person cannot assault her. Consent must be given every time two people engage in sexual contact. 

Myth : If a woman has had many sexual partners then she cannot be sexually assaulted.

Reality: The amount of sexual partners a woman has had does not forfeit her right to say "no" to sexual contact at any time. A woman can also be assaulted by someone who she has been intimate with in the past. Consent must be freely given each time two people are intimate with each other. 

Myth : If a man pays for bills, food or shopping, the woman owes him sex.

Reality: "No" means "no", whether a man pays for a date or not. A woman is not obligated to have sex at any time. 

Myth : When men become sexually aroused they have to have sex and cannot stop.

Reality: Although a man may want to have sex, there are no negative consequences if he does not have sex when he is aroused. A man's desire is not more important than a woman's right to choose who she does and does not have sex with. 

Myth : When a woman says "no", she really means "maybe" or "yes".

Reality: Although a man may believe he is receiving mixed messages, this is no excuse for rape. When a woman says "no", her partner should stop; he should never assume that "no" means anything else but "no". If someone is unclear about what the partner wants, they should ask. The onus for obtaining consent is on the person initiating sexual contact. Ignorance or pleading misunderstanding is not a legitimate legal defense for sexual assault.

Myth : If a woman is drunk or passed out from drinking too much it is okay to have sex with her.

Reality: If a person is unconscious or their judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs, legally, they cannot give consent. Having sex with a woman when she is drunk is sexual assault. 

Myth : If the attacker is drunk at the time of the assault then they cannot be accused of rape.

Reality: The attacker is responsible for their actions no matter how intoxicated they are. Being drunk is not an excuse to force sex on anyone legally. Being drunk is not an acceptable legal defense an accused rapist can use. 

Myth : It is okay for a man to pressure a woman into having sex.

Reality: Any type of verbal or physical coercion that is used to obtain sex is legally considered sexual assault. 

Myth : Only young women are sexually assaulted.

Reality: Women of all ages from infancy to old age are survivors of sexual assault. However, most women who are assaulted are between the ages of 14 and 24.

Myth : Women secretly want to be raped.

Reality: There is a big difference between fantasizing about aggressive sex and wanting to be raped. A woman is in control of her fantasies; however, women are not in control when they are being sexually assaulted. Rape is a violent, terrorizing, and often humiliating experience that no woman wants or asks for. 

Myth : A woman cannot be raped if she does not want to be assaulted.

Reality: Force or threat of force is often used by rapists to assault their victims. Rapists will often choose victims they believe they can physically overcome.

This myth is used to blame the victim; it is important to remember that no matter what a woman does during an assault, whether she chooses to physically resist or not, it is not her fault. She did what she had to in order to get out of a very difficult experience alive. 

Myth : You can tell if a woman is really sexually assaulted by the way she acts.

Reality: It is important to remember that, although reactions like anger, mistrust, and sadness are common, not all women experience the same emotions or express them in the same way. How a woman responds after a sexual assault can be influenced by factors such as her cultural background, whether she knows her attacker or not, her support system, how she views her experience, etc. Because a woman does not feel or act a certain way does not mean that her experience of sexual assault was not legitimate.

Myth : It is only sexual assault if a woman has been physically injured.

Reality: Most women who are sexually assaulted do not have visible injuries. This does not make the experience less of an assault; nor does it mean that a woman will not have any negative effects from her assault.

Myth : Men cannot be sexually assaulted.

Reality: Anyone can be sexually assaulted. However, most sexual assaults that occur are against women and are perpetrated by men.