10 Myths About Rape and Assault to Debunk on Sexual Violence Awareness Day

Protest together

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM), and while it’s important to talk about sexual assault and work to prevent such attacks all year long, in April communities around the country ramp up efforts to educate people about sexual violence. April 2nd is the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Day of Action, a day dedicated to help raise awareness about sexual violence, to educate communities, to support victims rights and to help teach how to prevent sexual assault. This day is an important opportunity to de-stigmatize what it means to be the victim of a sexual attack and to empower communities to take action and speak out against sexual violence.

After all, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that in the United States one in five women will be raped at some point in her life, and 1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence or assault of some kind. For anyone who thought that sexual assault or rape couldn’t possibly happen to them, the statistics don’t lie.

In honor of SAAM Day of Action, and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we’re here to debunk some common myths and misconceptions about rape and sexual assault. Truth be told, despite the fact that people are having more open conversations about assault and prevention, there is still a lot of misinformation and ignorance out there. Even people who think they know all there is to know about rape and rape prevention have more to learn. And as any victim of sexual assault can attest, sexual assault really can happen to anyone, anytime. Information is your biggest defense, and the more you know, the more you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and the better equipped you will be to offer support should you ever be faced with an act of sexual violence.

Here are 10 myths about rape and assault to arm you with the knowledge you need this Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Myth #1: Rape is a Rare Occurrence

Slutwalk Rape Not Acceptable
Photo Credit Slutwalk Chicago

Some people may mistakenly assume that rape is a rare occurrence that happens to people they don’t know, in environments they would never be in. Rape is not common and is reserved for police dramas, fictional films and cities/universities/communities far away from your reality. But that is a dangerous misconception that could put you in danger and at an elevated risk of being a victim of sexual assault. Rape is actually far more common than you might realize. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that every 92 seconds an American is sexually assaulted, and on average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. 1 in 5 women in the US will be raped at some point in her lifetime, which means that tens of millions of women will either be raped of be the victims of an attempted rape in America. The numbers are staggering, and prove that rape is hardly a rare occurrence, but unfortunately, it happens far too frequently, and most likely to you or someone you know.

Myth #2: Only Women are Raped or Assaulted

Rape is Rape Myth

Perhaps it’s because in modern media and on TV we often see rape victims as women, but in reality women are not the only ones who can be sexually assaulted. While it is far more common for a woman to be raped or to experience sexual violence, men can also be victims of these heinous crimes. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence involving physical contact during his lifetime. And don’t assume that just because men are often larger in size and stronger that they aren’t at risk of a sexual attack. Any man can be raped or assaulted regardless of his sexual orientation, appearance, size or strength. And while 1 in 10 rape victims is male (meaning the other 90 percent of victims are female), men are still at risk of experiencing sexual violence.

Myth #3: Sexual Assaults Only Happen Among Strangers

Rapefree Campus

If you think that your greatest risk of sexual violence or rape is from a complete stranger in a bar or alleyway or on an abandoned street corner then you are wrong. Most acts of sexual assault are actually committed by someone the victim knows. Research shows that 8 out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim and only about 19.5 percent of attacks occurred between strangers. The perpetrator can be anyone — a neighbor, a spouse, a boyfriend, a friend, a teacher or co-worker.

Myth #4: Rape is Provoked by the Victim

Myth Sexual Assault Maria Hinojosa
Photo Credit Twitter @mariahinojosa

A victim of rape or sexual assault is never ever at fault for what happens to them. We repeat, rape is NEVER provoked by the victim. It does not matter what you are wearing, how many drinks you have had, where you spend your time or what risky behavior you partake in. If you are raped or sexually assaulted you are a victim of a violent crime and no behavior ever gives someone else the right to abuse, humiliate and harm you. Ever.  

Myth #5: There is a Reason Not to Report Rape or Assault

Rape Conviction

A majority of rape and sexual assault victims don’t report their attacks for a wide range of reasons. It is naive to assume that all victims openly discuss their experiences and file reports without hesitation. Imagine what they have been through. They are ashamed, humiliated, vulnerable, terrified, and perhaps worst of all, they blame themselves. For all of these reasons and more, many victims chose to stay silent and never report their assault, or more drastically, never tell another soul about what happened to them. According to Beverly Engel, a psychotherapist and author of I’m Saying No!: Standing Up Against Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Sexual Pressure, victims are often too ashamed to speak up. “Sexual assault is a very humiliating and dehumanizing act against someone. The person really feels invaded and defiled, and there is a lot of shame attached to that,” Engel told ABC News. So just because a rape wasn’t reported, or immediately shared, does not mean it didn’t happen, and remember that victims have a lot of valid reasons for their hesitation to come forward.

Myth #6: If You Do Not Fight Back, You Have Not Been Sexually Assaulted

Survivor Truth

Sexual assault and rape do not require that the victim physically fight back. You can be a victim of a sexual attack but have no bruises or outward physical harm to show for it. Your pain and suffering could be emotional or internal, and while you did not hit or push or physically try to fight your abuser, you were saying no and you were being touched against your will. That is still rape.  

Myth #7: No Means Yes

No means No BeLatina Myth

Oh my goodness the fact that we even need to say this out loud is an absurd and depressing commentary on the world we live in, but here we are. If a woman (or man) says no, it means NO. N. O. In fact, if the victim doesn’t say yes, then it also means no. Silence does not equal consent. Anyone who argues that a victim was saying no but her body was saying yes is a disgusting criminal.

Myth #8: Sexual Assault is About Lust and Passion

Rape Cause BeLatina

Sexual assault and rape don’t actually have anything to do with sexual pleasure. This is not about someone with intense sexual and physical urges that he or she cannot contain. It’s not about lust. It’s about power and control. Rape occurs when a perpetrator wants to overpower and demean his or her victim. According to Lyn Yonack, MA, MSW, BCD-P for Psychology Today, “although the touch may be sexual, the words seductive or intimidating, and the violation physical, when someone rapes, assaults, or harasses, the motivation stems from the perpetrator’s need for dominance and control.”

Myth #9: Sexual Assault and Rape Occurs in Dangerous Locations

Sexual Abuse Myth
Photo Credit Twitter @equalitynow

Rape and sexual assault can happen anywhere, any time. It does not need to be in a dark alleyway or a sketchy bar or frat party. While sexual assault can occur in what seems like a safe space such as your home or friend’s house, it can also occur outside or in public spaces. Sexual violence can occur in your place of work, in your car or in a place typically deemed safe and familiar.

Myth #10: There is Nothing Anyone Can Do to Prevent Rape or Sexual Violence

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Perhaps the most uplifting myth about rape and sexual assault is that it cannot be prevented. This is 100 percent false. We can all make a difference and take measures to prevent sexual assault and to support victims of sexual violence and rape. There is always something you can do. If you fear that someone you know or someone you see is about to be raped or sexually assaulted, step in, create a distraction, offer help and speak up if you worry that someone is not safe. If you fear for your own well being, seek support and help from a bystander who can provide power and safety in numbers. This April, in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, engage in a conversation about sexual violence and sexual assault prevention. Share the facts, debunk the myths, donate your time and your efforts and offer your support. And lastly, if you have been raped in the past or have been sexually assaulted, know that you are not to blame and you are not alone.