True or False: An Overview of Ten Sexual Assault Myths
I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic here, but the issue of sexual assault is out of control in the United States. It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will be the victim of a completed or attempted rape in her lifetime, 1 in 4 during her college years. 1 in 3 will be the victim of some form of sexual assault. And before we start writing this off as a women’s issue, 1 in 6 MEN will be the victim of some form of sexual assault over the course of his life.
That means the odds are, it has happened or will happen to someone you know. It has happened or may happen to someone you care about. This isn’t an issue we can afford to say is someone else’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.
A big part of the problem, though, is a lack of understanding about the issue. So here are a few of common thoughts about sexual assault that we hear floating around a lot.
#1: LOOK AT HOW SHE WAS DRESSED, SHE WAS ASKING FOR IT
FALSE. It does not matter how a girl was dressed. Readers, I want you to read this sentence and then read it twice and then share it with someone: you could walk into a bar in your underwear and it STILL would not justify someone raping you, because at the end of the day, you did not commit the crime, the rapist did. Clothes DO NOT equal consent.
#2: MEN CANNOT BE RAPED
FALSE. 1 in 33 men will be the victim of a rape in his lifetime. Read that statistic again. Men CAN be raped. They are more often raped by other men, but they can ALSO be raped by women.
#3: IT IS USUALLY A STRANGER
FALSE. 84% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. In most cases, it is an instance of date rape. This is a large part of why many rapes are not reported: the victim does not necessarily feel comfortable reporting her rapist OR does not fully recognize it as a rape because it was someone she knew.
#4: SOME RACIAL/ETHNIC GROUPS HAVE A GREATER RAPE PROBLEM THAN OTHERS
TRUE AND FALSE. It is true that there are greater instances of rape among certain groups, but it is ALSO true that certain groups report less often. Statistically speaking, white women report rape at the LOWEST rate, which means that we don’t actually know how prevalent rape may actually be among the Caucasian community. Don’t try to bring racism into this issue. Rape happens in EVERY demographic.
#5: RAPE USUALLY OCCURS ACROSS RACIAL LINES
FALSE. Rape usually occurs INTRAracially, not interacially
#6: RAPE IS ABOUT SEX
FALSE. Rape is about POWER. Which is why it does not matter what the woman was wearing, etc, etc. This rape did not occur because the man was only capable of thinking with his penis and he just wanted her so badly he could not control it. Rape is about the perpetrator taking away control from the victim.
That’s it. End of story.
#7 WOMEN DON’T RAPE.
FALSE. I’m sorry if this is about to be a rude wake-up call for anyone who wants to say that this is just men enacting violence against women. It is not. Women rape. In most instances, female perpetrators of sexual violence perpetrate against children.
Before you say that sexual abuse of children is uncommon, take in this statistic: 44% of victims are perpetrated against before the age of 18. Not all of that is adults, of course, and not all of that is sexual abuse within the home. But some of it is. And some of it is by parents, and some of those parents are mothers. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that women have nothing to do with the perpetration of sexual violence.
#8 SEXUAL ASSAULT HAS LONG-TERM MENTAL HEALTH IMPLICATIONS
TRUE. So true. Psychiatrists now recognize that survivors of sexual assault often suffer from what has been termed Rape Trauma Syndrome.
#9 WOMEN CAN PREVENT RAPE
TRUE AND FALSE. Look, only perpetrators can prevent rape. Victims can’t prevent other people from committing the crime. So female perpetrators of sexual violence CAN prevent rape by not raping people. But since most perpetrators are men, I’m going to go ahead and say that for the most part, women can’t prevent rape. They can reduce their risk, but they can’t actually prevent the crime from occurring.
#10 MOST RAPISTS NEVER GO TO JAIL
TRUE. Sadly, this one is totally true. The FBI and RAINN estimate that 97% of rapists will never go to jail. This makes sense when I tell you that most rape convictions come from cases of interracial rape, and most instances of rape are intraracial. Most rape instances are never even reported, and getting a conviction is extraordinarily hard. On top of that, even most who are convicted are unlikely to fulfill their entire sentence.