Myths About Rape and Sexual AbuseWe operate in a society where myths about rape persist. Myths include ideas that rape can’t occur in a relationship, that women “ask” to be raped, and that saying no is simply a way of flirting. These myths are false. Their existence affects the way survivors, and indeed all women, are treated in society. They help excuse the rapist, put blame on the survivor, and deny or minimise the impact of rape on the survivor.
Part of our role, and everyone’s challenge, is to put these myths out of existence. Rape myths are false.
The truth is:
Nobody asks to be raped.
It doesn’t matter what a woman is doing, where they are, what they are wearing, or what time of day it is. Sex without consent is rape. Nothing someone does, says, or wears justifies or makes her responsible for rape.
All women can be raped.
Survivors of rape are of every background, ethnicity, age, occupation, appearance, and relationship status.
Rape doesn’t always occur to women alone in dark streets.
Our records show that in the year ending June 2010, 29% of rapes were committed by a family member and 4% by a stranger. 8.7% occurred in public places.
Rapists are often people known to the victim.
Most survivors knew their rapist before the rape. Rapists are frequently family members, partners, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. Sexual violence is most often perpetrated by current partners (one in three) or by boyfriends (one in ten).
There is no such thing as an uncontrollable sexual urge.
Men do not need to have sex once they are aroused. This is an excuse. Rapists choose to rape. Many rapes are planned. Men are able to stop themselves at any stage during sex.
It can still be rape if she didn’t say the word no.
Rape and sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact. Women can convey that they don’t want to have sex in many verbal and physical ways.
Rape can occur within marriage or a relationship.
Rape is sex without consent. Having consented to sex in the past or being in a relationship does not mean that consent exists for further sex. Consent must be freely given for each sexual encounter. It is not free consent if you agree to sex because your partner might get angry or sulk.
It can still be rape if she didn’t fight back.
Some women fight back during rape. Some women sustain physical injuries. Some women don’t fight back, for many reasons, including fear of further harm or fear of putting others at risk. If she didn’t give consent, it is rape.
It is rape if she withdraws consent at any point.
A woman may consent to making out or another kind of sexual contact but not consent to sex. A woman may have given consent to having intercourse but change her mind and withdraw consent. She has the right to say no, in many ways, at any point. If sex continues after she withdraws consent, it is rape.
Sexual abuse can occur without sex.
Sexual abuse is any unwanted sexual contact. Whether there was penetration – intercourse – or not is irrelevant, both in the eyes of the law and its effect on the survivor.
When women say ‘no’, or convey they don’t want sex in other ways, they mean it. They’re not playing games. Refusing sex is refusing sex. It’s not a way of flirting, a game, or a way of being sexual without being too ‘in-your-face’. If a man continues to have sex when a woman refuses, its rape.
Rapists can use condoms.
Rape is sex without consent. Some rapists use condoms out of habit, for their sexual health or to avoid leaving evidence of the rape.
Rapists may be men with otherwise normal sex lives or relationships.
Despite the stereotype of a rapist as a mentally disturbed pervert or sex addict, only a small minority of rapists have mental health issues. Many rapists are in consenting sexual relationships with other people at the time of their offence.
Survivors tell the truth about rape.
It is very rare for women to lie about being raped or sexually abused. Only 9% of sexual violence is reported to Police. Of this, only 8% of complaints of a sexual nature to police are classified as ‘false complaints’. This includes complaints where there is insufficient evidence, or the reason for the ‘false complaint’ label is unknown. It may also include cases where the complainant is under pressure to withdraw her complaint and register it as false.
Sex workers can be raped.
Sex workers have the right to determine with whom they agree to commercial sex. They have the right to refuse to provide, or continue to provide, sex to clients at any time. If they withdraw their consent, it is rape.
Survivors go on to lead healthy and normal lives.
It is a myth that there is high risk of survivors becoming offenders. There is no need to take a ‘risk-management’ approach to healing. It’s important instead to walk alongside survivors to support them to deal with what’s going on for them and rebuild their lives – and their sex lives - as they choose to.
The journey to recovery may be long, and is different for everyone.
Survivors don’t need to just ‘get over it’. There is no place for a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude when it comes to rape. Survivors need to go through the healing process at their own pace and at their own direction.