Don’t walk alone at night. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. Don’t wear revealing clothing. Sound familiar?
Debunking the myths surrounding sexual violence is a significant piece in a persisting puzzle.
These speculations are years old and have become embedded in society’s values over time and although the issue is becoming more recognised in society, the misconceptions are persevering and constantly being pressed by the media and educational institutions.
Students, parents and the general public are receiving the wrong information, victims are not getting the ample support they need and perpetrators are walking away freely.
These myths need to be debunked and education needs to happen. This post aims to share the truth behind 12 common sexual assault misconceptions.
- Most sexual assault cases are committed by strangers
This is one of the most, if not the most prominent mythology associated with sexual assault. The vast majority of cases are committed by someone known and trusted by the victim with only a minute amount by strangers. 70% of cases are committed by someone known to the victim personally with the remaining 30% being primarily by a person the victim has met in a social situation and only a small 1% of cases are by a stranger (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).
- Most sexual assault cases take place in unfamiliar isolated areas
As most cases of sexual assault are not committed by strangers they therefore do not always take place in dark alleyways or isolated streets. These cases commonly occur somewhere well known to the victim such as their own home.
- Sexual assault perpetrators are generally bad and scary people
Yes, many may be frightening however this statement is generally untrue. Sexual predators are ordinary people and come in all different shapes and sizes. They are often people you trust such as your friends, family and partners.
- Sexual assault is provoked by a sexual longing
Sexual assault is not motivated by a sexual need or lusting but is an act of power and control with a desire by the perpetrator to dominate the victim.
- Sexual assault only happens to physically attractive young people
ANYONE can be a victim of sexual violence even if they do not consider themselves to be typically good-looking. Victims can also be of any age or gender.
- Only women are victims of sexual assault
Although women, specifically aged between 16 and 24, are most likely to be victims of sexual violence, men can also experience forms of sexual assault either from another man or a woman.
- Victims lie about being sexually assaulted
It is not easy to evaluate the frequency of false reporting however studies around the world have found that only 1- 8% of sexual assault accusations are discovered to be false and thus false accusations are very rare.
- It is the victims fault if they act inappropriately
This misconception needs to be set straight. It is NEVER the victims fault. Victim blaming is very recurring and extremely dangerous and is especially common if the victim was drinking, taking drugs, flirting, dressed provocatively, acting promiscuously or was walking alone at night. It needs to be understood that it is always the perpetrator at fault.
- It is not sexual assault if the victim did not struggle or say no
Generally ‘no’ means ‘no’ but in this case we need to focus on ‘yes’ meaning ‘yes’. Anything other than a clear ‘yes’ should not be considered consensual and therefore any situation like this should be ended. There are other ways to tell if someone is non consensual including them saying things such as ‘I’m not sure about this’ or ‘I don’t think I want this’. Silence can also be a sign of a lack of consent.
- It’s not sexual assault if the victim willingly went into the bedroom or a secluded space
Typical story. A girl and a boy are at a party. They both have a few too many drinks and they end up in bed together. According to statistics by The University of the Sciences, 84% of men involved in sexual assault offender cases did not realise what they did was a case of sexual assault. Voluntarily going somewhere with someone, for example a bedroom, does not take the victims right away to say no. It is in no way ever too late to withdraw consent.
- It’s not sexual assault if they are married or in a relationship
Unfortunately in sexual assault cases, the closer the relationship between the victim and perpetrator, the more likely it is alleged as consensual and not a serious concern. This myth is therefore extremely dangerous and needs to be addressed. Sexual violence is sexual violence whether married, partners, friends, acquaintances or strangers and being in a certain relationship with someone does not give them any right to ever sexually abuse you.
- Most cases of sexual assault are reported and end in prosecution
Sexual assault is one of the most difficult offences to prosecute with approximately 85% of cases never coming to attention of the criminal justice system. The vast majority is not reported to police and of the cases that are reported only a small number proceed to trial with an ever lesser amount resulting in prosecution.
These myths encourage the view that sexual assault in some cases is okay when truthfully it is NEVER okay. If we can disseminate knowledge of these myths we can encourage a society with a more constructive and optimistic attitude towards speaking about sexual assault and ultimately sexual crimes will be reduced.
Please start conversation and share with your friends, family, fellow students and colleagues and aim to replace these fictional statements with FACTS.