Understanding Sexual Violence
Myths about sexual violence, which are often based on victim-blaming attitudes, are prevalent in our society. As a survivor or the loved one of a survivor, you may hear these myths from those around you. It’s important to understand that rape is never OK and it is never the fault of the survivor. Read below to examine and reject ten common myths about rape.
Myth 1: “It happened because you drank too much.”
Reality: No one deserves to be raped or abused. Intoxication is not an excuse for sexual assault. Drinking is not an invitation for sexual activity.
Myth 2: “Your clothes were too revealing.”
Reality: Similar to drinking, a person’s outfit is not indicative of desire for sexual activity. Clothing, or lack thereof, is not consent.
Myth 3: “You were leading them on.”
Reality: Whether or not you were romantically or sexually interested in a person, you do not owe the person anything. Flirting or perceptions of flirting are not indicative of an interest in engaging in sexual activity. In addition, consent can be retracted at any time. (See #9.)
Myth 4: “You should have fought back.”
Reality: Trauma triggers physical reactions that are not always controllable. Many sexual assault survivors experience tonic immobility, which is when the brain’s defense mechanism is to tell the body to freeze. It is not always possible to “fight back,” especially in situations when the assailant is bigger, stronger, or holds power (physical or mental).
Myth 5: “It’s not a big deal.”
Reality: You are the expert on your experience. No one gets to define the severity of your trauma but you.
Myth 6: “You didn’t say no, so how were they supposed to know?”
Reality: Consent is not not saying no. Consent is an enthusiastic affirmation of sexual activity. You do not need to say no for it to be considered rape or sexual abuse.
Myth 7: “If you’re dating or married to them, it’s not considered rape.”
Reality: Many survivors of rape and sexual abuse were hurt by someone the they know, trust, or love. You do not owe your partner anything just because of your relationship status or previous consentual sexual experiences.
Myth 8: “If you experienced orgasm, it wasn’t rape.”
Reality: The body has physical reactions that are not always controllable. Natural lubrication, erection, ejaculation, or orgasms do not mean you enjoyed or consented to what happened. Someone can tickle you and you can hate it but still laugh.
Myth 9: “You can’t just decide not to have sex after they’re already turned on.”
Reality: Consent can be given or taken away at any time. Just because they’re turned on does not mean you owe them anything.
Myth 10: “It was your fault.”
Reality: Sexual violence is never the survivor’s fault. The only person to blame is the perpetrator.