Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sexual Assault: 7 Myths and Facts

To continue our conversation for Sexual Assault Awareness month, I’d like to share seven of the most common misconceptions our society tends to have about sexual assault. Again, I know this stuff is difficult to talk about but I hope you’ll use some of these facts to spread hope and health among your friends and family! Each of you has the power to affect change just by knowing and sharing good information.


MYTH # 1
If a woman wears revealing clothing or has too much to drink, she is asking to be raped.

The only thing that causes rape to happen is a rapist. Nothing that someone wears, says, does, or has to drink or smoke makes a sexual assault occur. Victims come in all shapes and sizes and from all different kinds of backgrounds. They wear every kind of clothing, they have every kind of lifestyle. We would never tell someone that they deserved to be robbed because they were carrying money or because they looked vulnerable. Rape happens because someone chooses to rape. The only person responsible for that crime is the perpetrator.


MYTH # 2
If a woman or man does not fight or scream or say ‘no’ firmly, it can’t be rape.

When sex is used as a weapon, we call it sexual violence. There’s a reason we call it a weapon. The legal truth is that if someone does not actively consent to sexual activity, that is a problem. And if someone does not feel safe to refuse consent, that is coercion. There are lots of reasons someone might not fight back. When I talk to survivors I always try to remind them that whatever they did to stay alive and to survive that moment, they did the right thing, because they survived.

MYTH # 3
Sexual assault mostly happens in dark alleys and bad parts of town.

Sexual assault can happen anywhere but more than 50% happen either in or near the victim’s home.

MYTH # 4
Rapists are usually strangers hiding in the bushes.

Something like 80% of victims know their attackers. 38% of them are friends. 28% of them are intimate partners.

MYTH # 5
It’s not rape if you’re married, dating, or have had sex with that person before.

Consent is something you get to give every time you have sex. That’s your right. No one is allowed to coerce you into doing anything you don’t want to do, even if you’ve done it before, even if you’re married. And consenting to one kind of intimate activity is not consenting to all intimate activities. That’s why having tons of communication and loving, open conversations about intimacy is such a great thing to do with your partner, no matter how long you’ve been together. Who doesn’t want to receive an enthusiastic “YES” from their spouse every time?

MYTH # 6
Men can’t be raped.

Unfortunately, just like women, men are vulnerable to sexual assault by other men and by women. It’s also important to acknowledge that even though physiologically, a man may experience physical arousal during intercourse, that is not the same thing as active consent. Men face a unique stigma as survivors because they’re often told that if they were “real men,” they wouldn’t have let this happen to themselves. They’re also often asked to question their sexual orientation. It’s important to remember that rape is about power, not sex – in this case, sex is just another weapon.

MYTH # 7
Most men are rapists.

While most rapists are men, most men are not rapists. Men can also experience sexual violence and men can also be a huge part of the solution! I always want to say a special thank-you to the many wonderful men I’ve met and worked with who are passionate about ending violence in their communities. Check out one of my favorite campaigns geared towards men here.

If you or someone you know needs help or has questions, you can call the free, confidential 24/7 National Sexual Assault Hotline and speak with a trained advocate. They can talk with you about anything or they can direct you to your local hotline, as well. 1-800-656-HOPE

What have I missed? Anything you want to add to the list? Thank you, thank you for reading, for sharing, and for supporting. Next time I’ll be talking about how you can specifically help someone who has survived sexual or domestic violence.

love, elizabeth


Alex said...

You are an AMAZING person for doing this series. For serious.

Mrs. Pancakes said...

These are great..thanks for sharing!!

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