9 MYTHS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT

1. YOU CAN'T TRUST RAPE ALLEGATIONS BECAUSE THEY ARE SO OFTEN FALSE.

The stereotype that false rape allegations are a common occurrence, a widely held misconception in broad swaths of society, including among police officers, has very direct and concrete consequences. It contributes to the enormous problem of underreporting by victims of rape and sexual abuse.

2. SEXUAL ASSAULT HAPPENS BECAUSE OF THE WAY WOMEN DRESS.

It's absurd to think that style of dress would ever invite or excuse a crime. Is a man with an expensive watch asking to be robbed? No.

3. SEXUAL ASSAULT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEONE IS UNCONTROLLABLY AROUSED.

We know that rape is a crime of violence using sex, not a crime that is primarily motivated by sexual desire, and that most perpetrators of sexual assault have access to sex with someone other than their victim.

4. IT IS NOT RAPE IF YOU'VE DATED OR HAD CONSENSUAL SEX BEFORE.

Consent to sex is something that can be given at one time, and withheld at another. No matter what the relationship, or what happened before, sexual activity forced upon another without consent is sexual assault.

5. REAL SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS GO TO THE POLICE RIGHT AWAY.

There are plenty of good reasons a sexual assault victim might hesitate to go to the police: the stress of talking to a stranger about a traumatic experience, doubt that the accuser will be held accountable, anxiety about participating in a trial and having to face an attacker, not knowing that the incident qualified as sexual assault, misplaced shame — and of course, concerns about not being believed. 

6. RAPE IS EASY TO AVOID IF YOU STAY AWAY FROM DANGEROUS PLACES AND SUSPICIOUS STRANGERS.

According to a report based on FBI data, almost 70 percent of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement occurred in the home of the victim, the offender, or another person.

7. IF A PERSON DOESN'T FIGHT BACK PHYSICALLY, HE/SHE WASN'T RAPED.

This 'if you really didn't want it, why didn't you fight back harder?' position ignores that there are actually many ways that rape can occur, and many reasons it might be imprudent or impossible for a victim to attempt to physically overpower her attacker.

8. ONLY WOMEN CAN BE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE. 

Often, male survivors may be less likely to identify what happened to them as abuse or assault because of the general notion that men always want sex. Males have the added burden of facing a society that doesn't believe rape can happen to them . . . at all.

9. SEX WITH SOMEONE WHO IS TOO DRUNK OR TOO DRUGGED TO AGREE TO IT IS OKAY.

Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of many tools that perpetrators use.

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