Myths and Facts

Myth: Sexual assault is an impulsive, uncontrollable act of passion.
Fact: Rape is an act of power and control, not a desire to have sex. Most rapes are planned in advance and the victim is deliberately selected, set up and forced or coerced.

Myth: Most victims are sexually assaulted by a stranger or someone they have never met.
Fact: The majority of victims know their assailant. In over two-thirds of sexual assaults, the offender was a boyfriend, marital partner, date, friend, family member or coworker.

Myth: Victims often provoke sexual assault by their actions, behaviors, or the way they dress.
Fact: No one wants to be sexually assaulted. By definition, rape is against the victim’s will or desires. However, this is how offenders rationalize their crimes by claiming their victims wanted it or asked for it. The perpetrator is ALWAYS to blame for the crime, not the victim — no matter what the victim did or did not do, what she/he was wearing or where she/he were at the time of the rape. The criminal is fully at blame for the crime, not the victim.

Myth: No one can be sexually assaulted against his or her will. Anyone can stop a rape from occurring if they try hard enough.
Fact: Rape is a crime of violence, power and control. In some cases, force is used to dominate the victim (such as choking, beating, using a weapon) or the victim’s life is threatened. Confronted with this fear, many victims do not attempt to fight the attacker. Passive (or psychological) resistance should not be equated with consent. Some victims use a psychological defense to survive the attack; others become overpowered with fear that they cannot act or even scream; and others are subdued with alcohol or other drugs to enable the rape to occur. This does not mean they wanted or deserved to be raped. The rapist controls the attack, not the victim.

Myth: People who commit sexual assaults are mentally ill, sexual deviants, loners or losers.
Fact: Sexual offenders are generally individuals who have fit very well into society and would not otherwise be identified as a rapist since they live very ‘normal’ lives.

Myth: Men cannot be raped.
Fact: Sexual assault is a form of violence where sex is used to demean, humiliate and overpower another person — no matter the gender of the victim or perpetrator. Current statistics indicate that one in six men are sexually assaulted or abused in their lifetime. Typically, the perpetrator and the victim is a heterosexual male. Sexual assault of males is greatly underreported. This can contributes to a belief that it rarely happens to men and boys, when in fact, it does occur.

Myth: A woman owes a man sex if she lets him buy her drinks or pay for date.
Fact: Forcing someone into rape is not considered re-payment under any circumstance. No one is obligated to have sex with anyone — no matter how much money is spent.

Myth: Only women who are promiscuous or playing with men (overly flirtatious) get raped.
Fact: Sexual assault occurs in all segments of our society. Most rapists choose their victims because they have access to them—same neighborhood, school, or employer. Therefore, victims come from all parts of society — all races, socio-economic backgrounds, ages, sexual orientations, religions, lifestyles and both genders.
Myth: Most gays or lesbians would change their mind if they had sex with someone of the opposite gender.
Fact: By definition, rape is against the person’s will and anyone who is sexually assaulted will experience the psychological effects of the trauma. This is NOT something that a gay person wants nor will it change their identity as a homosexual to be forced into sex with someone of the opposite gender. Raping someone because they are homosexual (or believed to be homosexual) is a sexual assault and a hate crime.

Myth: Most rapes are reported by women who “change their minds” afterwards or who want to “get even” with a man.
Fact: The overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement — ironically, because some of the victims do not think they will be believed. Of the rapes that do get reported, a significant few are considered false reports.

Myth: The majority of sexual assaults are black men raping white women.
Fact: The majority of sexual assaults are intra-racial (within the same race) — white men raping white women; black men raping black women, etc.

Myth: If an individual is not hysterical or emotionally reactive after reporting a sexual assault, she/he is probably lying.
Fact: People respond differently to crises, including sexual assault. There is no right or wrong way to respond. Some victims cry, some are quiet, some are anxious and some are calm or in shock. You cannot assess if someone was raped by how they act.

Myth: Most rapes occur between two people who are fully aware of what is happening and are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Fact: Alcohol or other drugs are involved in the majority of sexual assaults with the victim or offender (or both) under the influence. In some cases, the victim is given alcohol or drugs without their consent as a method of facilitating (and premeditating) rape.

Myth: If there was no physical evidence of violence, there could not have been an assault.
Fact: Many sexual assault cases do not have evidence. The majorities of cases do not involve a visible physical injury (bruises or abrasions) but might involve genital or internal injuries. However, many victims do not seek medical care or make a police report and therefore evidence is not obtained.

Earlham College SAPA Training Manual, Terri Spar Nelson MSSW, LISW, ACSW, Sugati LLC

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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Richmond, Indiana
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