Myths and Facts of Sexual Assault

MYTH: The primary motive for rape is sexual.
FACT: The primary motives for rape are aggression and power, not sex. Rapists have a desire to dominate, humiliate and degrade their victims. Rape is not the result of “pent up” sexual desire, as many offenders report that she do not enjoy the sex act per se during rape. In fact, most offenders have access to a consensual sexual relationship with a wife or lover.

MYTH: Women are sexually assaulted because they “ask for it” in some way.
FACT: Attempts to shift the burden of blame from the offender to the victim by implying that “she asked for it” are common. There is nothing a person does to “deserve” a sexual assault – the way a woman dresses, her alcohol consumption, or her sexual history are used as excuses to justify the rapist’s behavior. By blaming the survivor, the attention is directed away from the offender, diminishing the offender’s responsibility for the attack. Blaming a woman for her rape because of how she acts or what she wears is like blaming a bank for being robbed because it “tempted” the thief with all that money.

MYTH: A woman can nearly always prevent an assault by resisting her attacker.
FACT: Every sexual assault is unique and the issue of resistance and submission should be evaluated individually. Resistance could deter an attack, or it could conceivably increase one’s chances of injury and perhaps result in death. The survivor needs to do whatever she feels comfortable doing to extricate herself from the situation. She should rely on her instincts, and whatever she does is correct for her. Even if she must submit, this does not imply consent, and in fact, may keep her alive.

MYTH: Many women falsely report rape as a means of revenge or to get attention.
FACT: Sexual assaults very rarely falsely reported. The rate of “false reports” of rape (fabricated stories) is 2% to 3%, no different than other crimes. [Schafran, L.H. (1993). “Writing and reading about rape: A primer.” St. John’s Law Review, 66, 979-1045.] The general misconception of a high rate of false reports of sexual assaults may be confused with observations of low conviction rates of offenders. The much bigger issue is the low percentage of rapes that are reported to the police; less that 5% of rapes on college campuses are reported to law enforcement (National Institute of Justice, 2004).

MYTH: Rapists are easily identifiable by their physical appearance, actions, or words.
FACT: There is no standard mental or physical profile that defines a rapist. A rapist can be someone of any age, race, economic background, belief system, or culture. Although the stereotype of the deranged stranger rapist abounds in our society, stranger rapes only make up around 20% of all sexual assaults, and even then the stranger may not be a mentally disturbed person. The vast majority of rapists are people the survivor knows; people she sees in day to day life.

MYTH: Most sexual assaults are interracial.
FACT: Most sexual assaults take place between members of the same race. White survivors tend to report African-American offenders more frequently than white offenders, and African-American survivors tend to underreport assaults in general, but especially if the offender is white. African-American offenders tend to be convicted in disproportionately higher numbers based on arrest rates. The myth that African-American men rape only white women may be perpetuated by the publicity given to those assaults fitting cultural and racial stereotypes.

MYTH: When a woman says “no,” she might really mean “yes.”
FACT: This myth is common in dating situations. When a person says “no,” that person’s partner must assume she means nothing other than “no.” If a person does not explicitly consent to an act of sex, in the form of a “yes” or similar phrasing, that person has not consented. Silence on a person’s behalf must be taken as a “no” rather than consent. Rape is not just a matter of miscommunication. However, communication is vital in sexual situations.

Information taken from: “Myths and Facts About Sexual Assault,” Sexual Offense Services of Ramsey County and “Myths and Facts Quiz,” Juneau Mahan Gary and Karen Calabria Briskin

Myths and Facts about Male Rape

MYTH: Only women can be raped.
FACT: Men can and are sexually assaulted every day.

MYTH: Men who rape other men are gay.
FACT: Rape is not about sexual preference or desire – it is an act of power and control. The motivation of the rapist is to humiliate and brutalize another person. A survey of convicted rapists found that at least half of these men did not care about the sex of their victims, they raped both men and women. Most male rapists are either heterosexual or suffer great confusion about their sexual identity.

MYTH: Men who rape other men are psychotic.
FACT: There is no evidence to support this belief. Rape is a reflection of a society that trains men to strive to dominate and control others and to avoid the open expression and acknowledgment of feelings.

MYTH: Survivors of male rape must be gay.
FACT: Both straight and gay men can be raped: most studies report that at least half (and more often the clear majority) of survivors are exclusively heterosexual.

MYTH: Rape is something that doesn’t happen to “real men”.
FACT: Rape is something that can and does happen to an entire spectrum of men, regardless of physical strength or fighting prowess. Reported survivors have included a boxer and a 6’2″ man weighing 200 lbs. Being raped does not mean that the survivor is weak or a “wimp.” Anyone can be overpowered or taken by surprise. Size and strength are often no match for weapons, overwhelming odds or surprise attacks.

MYTH: Male rape only happens in prison, and is due to the lack of sexually available women.
FACT: The rape of men in prisons is a classic example of men using rape as a means of experiencing themselves as powerful and in control. Male rape happens much more often in society at large than we realize, but the survivors rarely tell anyone. Many rape crisis centers report that as many as 10% of their callers are male survivors.

MYTH: A man cannot have an erection if frightened.
FACT: All studies so far have found that survivors commonly do report erections and even ejaculations during even the most vicious attacks. These are uncontrollable automatic physiological responses and do not mean the survivor enjoyed the experience.

MYTH: Women don’t rape men.
FACT: Women can and do rape men, although this seems much less common than rape by men. Sexual assault of a man by one or more women is just as serious as any other type of violation of any other survivor.

MYTH: Being raped reflects upon the survivor’s manhood.
FACT: It is important to remember that a survivor of rape, whether male or female, was not at fault or responsible. Recovering from rape demands that we realize and combat rape myths about both male and female survivors.

MYTH: Men deal better with personal/physical crisis and attacks than women do, and will therefore get over a rape more quickly and without help.
FACT: There is growing evidence that men heal from this type of experience with greater difficulty. Men characteristically deal with this sort of trauma by trying to ignore it. This reluctance to seek therapy or support hinders recovery, and many men remain traumatized by the crime for years.

MYTH: There is nothing a man can do to help another man who has been victimized by rape.
FACT: Like the women’s movement, a movement among men toward supporting and helping one another will be a giant step in beginning to effectively address the needs of male survivors. Exposing and attacking the myths and disseminating the facts about male rape are steps in this direction.

*Information was taken from Crime Victim’s Digest, April 1987