Myths and Facts

MYTH: Sexual assault is a crime of passion and lust.
Sexual assault is a crime of violence. Assailants seek to dominate, humiliate and punish their victims. 90% of convicted sex offenders could not remember what the survivor looked like. The myth that suggests sexual assault is a crime of passion and lust serves to maintain the idea that sexual assault is about sex. If society (through media, education, etc…) continues to be bombarded with the message that sexual assault is an act of sex rather than one of power, control, domination and violence, then as a society we can continue to look at individual behavior and choices and not interrogate larger social systems that perpetuate inequality.

MYTH: You cannot be assaulted against your will.
Assailants overpower their victims with the threat of violence or with actual violence. Especially in cases of acquaintance rape or incest, an assailant often uses the victim's trust in him to isolate him/her. The reasoning that suggests that you cannot be assaulted against your will also suggests that there really is no such thing as sexual assault. Stop and think about that statement. The very definition of rape is that it is "against your will". If that's not possible, then it follows that there is no such thing as rape. Right? Wrong. You need only look at the world around you to see evidence of rape everywhere. Everyday.

MYTH: It is impossible for a husband to sexually assault his wife.
Regardless of marital or social relationship, if consent is not given to sexual activity, it is sexual assault. In fact, 14% of women are victims of rape committed by their husbands. This myth reinforces the notion that women are the property of men and therefore subject to his desires, his whims and his will, even to the exclusion of their own will. This myth positions women as objects, as subordinates to men and most importantly as inhuman (i.e. with no right to exercise free will).

MYTH: A person who has really been assaulted will be hysterical.
Survivors exhibit a spectrum of emotional responses to assault: calm, hysteria, laughter, anger, apathy, shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way. As a society we tend "learn" about rape victims and their responses from the media. The media shows a very, very narrow view of who victims (and perpetrators) of rape are and how they respond to rape. This narrow depiction of many womens' lives and experiences serves to underestimate the prevalence of rape in our society.

MYTH: Sexual assault is an impulsive act.
Seventy-five percent of all assaults are planned in advance. When three or more assailants are involved, 90% are planned. If two assailants are involved, 83% are planned. With one assailant, 58% are planned. This myth serves to absolve rapists of the responsibility for acting violently. It suggests the "I could not control it" defense that of course shifts the blame for the rape right on to the victim.

MYTH: Assailants are usually crazed psychopaths who do not know their victims.
As many as 80% of all assaults involve acquaintances. An assailant might be someone you know intimately. S/he may be a coworker, a friend or a family member. 90% of convicted sex offenders tested psychologically normal. Again, this myth serves to grossly underestimate the prevalence of sexual violence in our society. If we focus on "crazy" people as perpetrators, we may feel safer if we stay away from people who think fit into that category. In addition, "normal" people (who are committing a majority of rapes) are off the hook and not accountable for ending rape. Also, it feeds into the other myths that suggest rape is a rare occurrence and not something most people need to "worry" about.

MYTH: Gang rape is rare.
In 43% of all reported cases, more than one assailant was involved.

MYTH: Women “cry rape” in order to justify sexual situations that they later regret.
Less than 5% of all rapes are actually reported. According to an FBI study, there is no crime that is less likely to be falsely reported. This myth supports that thinking that all women are inherently evil and often conduct themselves in ways that that they later regret. In this scenario, men bear no responsibility for their behavior ands actions.

MYTH: Persons who dress or act in a “sexy” way are asking to be sexually assaulted.
Many convicted sexual assailants are unable to remember what their victims looked like or were wearing. Nothing a person does or does not do causes a brutal crime like sexual assault. The Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline puts it this way: "You could be walking down Fullerton Avenue at 3 in the morning, drunk and wearing nothing but stiletto heels and fall into some guy's lap but guess what? If he's not a rapist, he's not going to rape you. He'll cover you with his coat and get you some help."

MYTH: Only attractive women are assaulted.
Survivors range in age from infancy to old age, and their appearance is seldom a consideration. Assailants often choose victims who seem most vulnerable to attack: old persons, children physically or emotionally disabled persons, substance abusers, and street persons. Men are also attacked. This myth serves to only recognize a small number of women as "rapable". Too many women are left out and run the risk o not having their claims of rape heard or taken seriously.

MYTH: It is impossible to sexually assault a man.
Men fall victim for the same reasons as women: they are overwhelmed by threats or acts of physical and emotional violence. Sexual assault (including cases in which the victim is a male-identified trans person) does not make the victim any less of a "real man." Men of all sexual orientations and body types can experience sexual assault.

MYTH: If a victim asks their attacker to wear a condom they must have really wanted it.
In many cases, once a victim realizes that the rape is going to happen they want to try and get whatever protection they can. In addition, consent can be withdrawn at any time, even after the condom is on.