Many untrue myths exist related to the phenomenon of sexual violence.
Myth: The main motivation for rape is sexual desire.
Reality: Rape is primarily about power, not sex. Rape is used as a weapon to cause the victim humiliation and pain. The basic motivations for rape are anger, display of power, and sadism.
Myth: Only attractive young women are raped.
Reality: Anyone can become a victim of sexual violence, irrespective of age, race, religious affiliation, sex, sexual orientation or social class.
Myth: The perpetrator of rape is usually a man unknown to the victim and rape usually takes place through assault.
Reality: In more than 50 % of rape cases the assault occurs between members of a circle of people who know each other. The perpetrator is usually the victim’s co-worker, family member, friend, lover, neighbor, etc. Rape and sexual violence also occur in marriage.
Myth: Rape usually occurs at night in a dark, remote place.
Reality: Localities where victims feel safe are actually the places where rape happens. This includes the victim’s home or workplace, and it is not exceptional for rape to be committed during the day.
Myth: Those who are raped must not have defended themselves or fought back. It is not possible to negotiate during a rape.
Reality: The certainty never exists that such assailants “just” want to commit rape - they may have even more violent plans in store for the victim. While generally self-defense is the best choice for victims, the perpetrators of sexual violence frequently use threats or weapons to intimidate them. Studies show that victims who do defend themselves during a sexual assault sustain serious injury more often than those who do not. There are situations when it is appropriate not to physically defend oneself.
Myth: Only children or women are rape victims. Men can never be abused against their will thanks to their physical strength or because they cannot be forced to get an erection.
Reality: Men comprise between 7 and 10 % of rape victims irrespective of sexual orientation.
Myth: Rapists are always male.
Reality: While it is rare for women to commit rape, it is not unheard of. Women rape with the same motivation that men do.
Myth: A man who rapes another man must be gay.
Reality: Sexual desire does not usually play a role during rape. What rape is primarily about is a display of power.
Myth: Persons of certain races or social positions perpetrate sexual violence more frequently than persons of other races or social positions.
Reality: There is no typical perpetrator of rape. The perpetrators of sexual violence are of all ages, come from all economic strata, all ethnic or racial groups, and are of all social positions. In more than 50 % of cases the perpetrator knows the victim.
Myth: Those who are raped are responsible for being raped. They “ask for it” because of how they behave and dress.
Reality: Statistics demonstrate that perpetrators plan their rapes - they choose a specific victim on the basis of variables other than those of age, behavior, clothing, physical appearance, etc. Perpetrators mostly seek someone whom it will be easy for them to victimize, someone who will not cause big problems for the perpetrator afterward and will not defend herself or himself.
Myth: The perpetrator of a rape is a deviant, pathological individual.
Reality: Research surveys show that only one-fourth of all rapes are perpetrated by persons who are pathological, or rather, by persons suffering from a sexual deviancy.
Myth: Most rapes reported are fabrications.
Reality: The truth is that many more people are raped than ever report their rapes to police. It is presumed that only 8 % of rape cases are ever reported. False accusations of rape account for between 6 to 10 % of reported rapes.
Myth: Rape victims essentially desire to be raped.
Reality: During consensual sexual intercourse, some people want their partner to behave like an “aggressor” or enjoy “hard” sex. However, this does not mean those people want to be raped or would like being raped! The element of freedom of choice is lacking when a rape is committed. The violent offender sees the victim as prey, not as a human being, and connects sexual behavior with violence, not with love or mutual pleasure.
Myth: “Everyone knows that when a woman says no, she means yes!”
Reality: Rape is a degrading, frightening and violent experience that no one ever wants to have! If one sexual partner does not immediately stop engaging in sexual behavior the moment the other sexual partner says “no”, then any further sexual behavior by that partner constitutes a sexual assault. Agreement with a sex act must be given every time by all persons involved. Sexual intercourse without agreement or consent is rape!
Myth: “The woman was drunk / under the influence of drugs / had a bad reputation / was hitchhiking / was wearing see-through clothing / seduced him / probably got what she wanted.”
Reality: Alcohol or other narcotics are frequently weapons exploited by perpetrators of sexual violence to dominate the victim. If a victim is unconscious, or her judgment is influenced by alcohol or drugs, or she is incapable of giving consent for any other reason, then sexual intercourse with such a person is considered sexual assault.
Myth: The perpetrator was drunk / under the influence of drugs / depressed / under stress / not himself or herself.
Reality: Perpetrators use different variations of excuses to justify their behavior. Sexual violence must never be excused, for any reason!
Myth: Aggression and violence are part of sex.
Reality: This myth is based on the presumption that sexual aggression is a natural component of the interaction between couples and is supported with biological arguments and references to animal behavior. It is necessary to realize that we are capable of handling many of our biological behaviors and we must keep them under control in public or in front of others. Since we are capable of self-control, why should any form of violence ever be excused?
Myth: If the victim experiences erection or orgasm, then what happened wasn’t rape.
Reality: Neither ejaculation, erection or orgasm are necessarily the result of sexual arousal and desire - rather, they are natural biological reactions that people have no control over once they begin. It is not possible to allege that these physical displays mean the person consented to sexual intercourse. Once again, the element of free will is lacking.
Myth: Bisexuals, gays, lesbians and transsexuals “deserve” to be raped for their lifestyles.
Reality: Nobody ever “deserves” to be raped! That is an excuse used by perpetrators who commit rape as a hate crime against bisexuals, gays, lesbians and transsexuals.
Myth: Sexual violence is frequently a consequence of poor communication, or of some sort of a misunderstanding.
Reality: Sexual violence is a crime that cannot be considered “just” some sort of mistake. It does not occur on the basis of misunderstanding!
Myth: It is acceptable to cajole or persuade someone to perform a sex act.
Reality: No! Such behavior falls into the category of coercion. This is one of the tactics used by perpetrators to intimidate the victims of their sexual assault without using pressure in the form of physical strength.
Myth: Rape victims experience sexual violence as forced sexual intercourse.
Reality: Rape victims experience sexual violence as a death threat.