Myths & Misconceptions About Sexual Assault
The more we learn about sexual assault, the more we realize how
many of our attitudes about sexual assault are based on myths
rather than facts. Myths about rape are widespread and are believed
by men and women from all segments of society.
Myths about sexual assault serve to direct attention away from
violence. They are similar to myths about other forms of
oppression, such as racism, in that they encourage us to believe
that how things are today is the natural order of things, that
those who are assaulted either deserved their fate or enjoyed their
fate, and that only certain types of people get sexually
assaulted. The myths allow people to believe the issue does
not concern them. The myths serve to minimize the seriousness of
sexual assault and, by focusing on particular people in particular
circumstances, to shift the blame away from those who commit the
crime. Blame is focused on the behavior of those who were assaulted
or on particular men, targeted often because of their race or
Myths keep us from understanding that sexual assault is connected
to our accepted social values of masculinity, femininity, and
sexuality-that assault is common in everyday interactions.
Myth: Only certain types of women get sexually
assaulted. It could never happen to me.
Fact: Both men and women can be sexually
assaulted. It is not dependent on race, class, or gender.
Myth: Sexual assault is the result of sexual
arousal or sex deprivation.
Fact: Sexual assault occurs as an attempt to
exert control and confirm power.
Myth: Sexual assault is most often committed by
strangers at night in dark alleys.
Fact: Most assaults are committed by someone the
person knows and occur at any time of the day or night. Sexual
assault occurs most frequently in a familiar place.
Myth: Sexual assault committed by an acquaintance
is not as serious as assault committed by a stranger.
Fact: Acquaintance sexual assault is as serious
as sexual assault by a stranger and the emotional consequences for
the victim can be just as difficult to cope with.
Myth: Sexual assault is provoked by flirting and style of
Fact: Sexual assault occurs because of power
and control issues. Dress and behavior are not the
Myth: Men can never be raped or sexually
Fact: Men can be and are sexually assaulted.
Myth: Women do not rape or commit sexual
Fact: Women can be sexual aggressors.
Myth: If a person is not a virgin then they can
not be raped.
Fact: A person's sexual history has nothing to do
with a case of rape. A person could even have had sex with the
attacker at an earlier time and can still be raped by them.
Myth: People who do not actually physically fight
back have not been sexually assaulted.
Fact: A person may not fight back for any number
of reasons, but not fighting back does not equal consent, and
sexual assault has still occurred.
Myth: When a man becomes sexually aroused, the
only way to deal with it is to have sex.
Fact: Just because a man has an erection does not
mean that he has to put it somewhere. There are no physical
consequences if a man doesn't have sex when he is aroused.
Myth: When someone says "no," s/he might really
Fact: Although mixed messages can be given, when
someone says no s/he means no. Never assume that no means anything
else but no. If there is any doubt, ask the partner.
Myth: Making out with someone, even in a bedroom,
means that both people want to have sex.
Fact: Just because people make out, even on a
bed, does not mean intercourse is going to happen. People can
want to "fool around," without wanting to actually have
Myth: If someone has passed out because of
excessive alcohol, it is okay to engage in sexual activity with
Fact: If someone is unconscious, s/he is unable
to give you consent and therefore it would be sexual assault.
Myth: If the aggressor is drunk at the time of
the assault, then s/he cannot be accused of sexual assault.
Fact: The aggressor is responsible for his or her
actions no matter how intoxicated. Being drunk is not an excuse to
force sexual activity on someone against his or her will.
Gillian Greensite [http://calcasa.org/]
Men Against Sexual Assault at the University of Rochester