Separating Fact from Fiction
Because sexual assault is shrouded in secrecy, there are a number of myths that inform people's opinions, thoughts and beliefs about sexual violence. Myths about rape can provide us with a false sense of security; we may think that if we don't engage in certain behaviors or dress a certain way, that it can never happen to us. Separating fact from fiction is important for a number of reasons including(1) it helps to create a safe environment for survivors to heal, (2) it decreases the amount of victim-blaming that often occurs after a sexual assault, (3) it shifts the focus from the survivor to the perpetrator and helps everyone examine behaviors and attitudes in society that promote a rape culture.
When you hear some of these common myths, stand up, speak out and share the facts:
- FICTION: Men rape women because of a uncontrollable biological sexual urges.
- FICTION: Rape is not a big deal. It's only sex.
- FICTION: Women lie about being raped to get back at someone or to protect their reputation.
- FICTION: If a person goes to someone's room or house or goes to a bar, she assumes the risk of sexual assault. If something happens later, she can't claim that she was raped or sexually assaulted because she should have known not to go to those places.
- FICTION: Most sexual assault survivors react hysterically.
- FICTION: Alcohol causes sexual assault.
- FICTION: Men can't be victims of sexual assault.
- FICTION: Women should protect themselves more.
- FICTION: Women provoke rape by the way they dress or the way they flirt.
- FICTION: Sexual assault is an impulsive, uncontrollable act of passion.
- FICTION: Sexual assaults are mostly committed by strangers.
- FICTION: Men who rape are mentally ill.
- FICTION: In a rape, the person who is raped is the only one who suffers.
(1) Peggy Reeves Sanday, "The Socio-Cultural Context of Rape: A Cross-Cultural Study," Journal of Social Issues 37, no.4 (1981).
(2) U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey
(3) Lawrence A. Greenfield, Sex Offenses and Offenders: An Analysis of Data on Rape and Sexual Assault (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, 1994).
Sources: California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, The Aurora Center for Education and Advocacy