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9 Myths About Sexual Violence

Posted in Understanding the IssuesTagged , , , , ,
By: Cynthia
Posted On: August 8, 2019

The conversation about sexual violence has become more prominent in recent years, which is important in raising awareness and holding abusers accountable. However, there are several harmful myths about sexual violence that tend to circulate and make it harder for survivors to be believed, feel protected, and seek justice. Here are some common myths about sexual violence:

Myth: “Sexual violence is only committed by strangers.”

Fact: Data estimates that 80% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Perpetrators often prey on people they know, and use the relationship to pressure their victims into silence.

Myth: “Sexual violence is only committed against women, by men. Men cannot be victims of sexual violence.”

Fact: While it is true that the majority of sexual violence is committed by men against women, anyone can be a perpetrator, and anyone can be a victim. In the U.S., one in three women and one in six men have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lifetime.

Myth: “Wearing revealing clothing, being intoxicated, or acting provocatively will lead to sexual assault.”

Fact: The only cause of sexual assault is one person choosing to violate another person. The victim’s appearance or behavior before the attack has no effect on their right to say no.

Myth: “Perpetrators of sexual assault are mentally ill, perverts, abnormal, violent criminals, etc.”

Fact: Anyone can be a perpetrator of sexual assault. Most rapes are committed by someone the victim already knew. Rapists can be boyfriends or girlfriends, spouses, coworkers, relatives, classmates, trusted professionals, or anyone else. There is no one profile for who a rapist is.

Myth: “Most rape accusations are false reports.”

Fact: The majority of sexual assaults (63%) are never reported to the police. Of the assaults that are reported, research estimates that only a small percentage are false reports, similar to the rates of other violent crimes.

Myth: “Survivors of sexual violence will appear battered, hysterical, or obviously violated. If a victim did not fight back, they must have wanted it.”

Fact: People react to crisis and deal with trauma in different ways. Survivors of sexual assault may present with bruises or injuries, but may also experience fear, guilt, trouble concentrating, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, and a slew of other responses. Victims may not fight back during an assault for a number of reasons. In some cases, the victim experiences a “freeze” response where they cannot move or speak. In other cases, the perpetrator uses threats or other tactics of force/manipulation instead of physical violence. There is no one right way to respond to being assaulted.

Myth: “If the victim becomes sexually aroused during the assault, they must have wanted it.”

Fact: Sexual arousal (including orgasm) is a natural, biological response that we cannot control. Arousal does not mean consent. This myth is often used to shame or silence victims of assault, or to diminish the validity of their experience.

Myth: “People with disabilities and people in LGBTQ+ relationships are unlikely to be victims of sexual violence.”

Fact: Again, anyone can be a perpetrator, and anyone can be a victim, from any race, religion, ethnicity, disability or ability status, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or background. In particular, people with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of sexual assault, and LGBTQ+ individuals experience relationship violence at equal or higher rates than heterosexual individuals.

Myth: “Behaviors like catcalling, inappropriately explicit questions, unwanted touching (massages, hugs), and rape jokes are harmless.”

Fact: These behaviors all exist on the spectrum of sexual violence. When we are passive in responding to these behaviors, we enable sexual violence and set the stage for more physically violent acts. Dismissing these behaviors only helps to normalize and excuse sexual violence.

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