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Common Misconceptions about Sexual Assault

Myth

Reality

“It could never happen to me.” (False) Anybody can be sexually assaulted: people of any gender, age, race, social class, sexuality, religion, occupation, education level, ability, and physical description. Sexual assault can also be perpetrated by anyone.
“Most sexual assaults happen in dark allies by deranged strangers.” (False) Most sexual assaults occur at home. Sexual assault can be planned and often the offender is a partner, relative, friend, neighbour or other acquaintance of the survivor. Few offenders are mentally “out-of-touch” with reality.
“Sexual assault is primarily a sexual crime.” (False) Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature, and can include a physical assault that is acted out sexually. Sexualized violence is primarily about power and exerting power, not about sexual desire.
“If someone is wearing revealing or sexy clothing and/or is inebriated, they are ‘asking’ for it.” (False) Nobody asks to be sexually assaulted. All people, including women, have the right to choose what they are wearing and to choose their sexual partners. This idea that people “ask” to be sexually assaulted is harmful because it puts blame on the survivor.
“Sexual assault happens only to young women.” (False) Women of all ages from infancy to old age are sexually assaulted. Statistics indicate that women between the ages of 14 and 24 are the most vulnerable to sexual assault, though this does not take in to account the many women who do not report or talk about their experience of sexual assault.
“People with disabilities are less likely to be sexually assaulted.” (False) People with disabilities are more vulnerable in our society and are therefore more vulnerable to sexualized violence. In part this myth comes from the misconception that people with disabilities are not sexual or are not sexually attractive, which we know to be not true. Furthermore, sexual assault is about power not sexual desire. This myth also exists because there can be barriers for some people with disabilities to communicate an experience of sexual assault and many people with disabilities who do come forward are not believed.
“A wife cannot charge her husband with sexual assault.” (False) Until January 1983, this was true. It is now against the law for one spouse to force the other to engage in sexual activity. This is why it is important to get consent always and at every step, even if you are in a pre-existing relationship with someone.
“A woman cannot rape another woman.” (False) The belief that a woman cannot sexual assault another woman is the result of a society that has many misconceptions about what sexual assault is and stereotypes of women as non-violent. Though the majority of offenders are men there are many tactics of power and control that can be used by people of all genders and this can happen in any kind of relationship. Anyone, including women, can do something unwanted and unconsensual. This myth is harmful because it can result in many women feeling uncertain that they were sexually assaulted or unwilling to come forward because they worry they will not be believed.
“Women secretly want to be raped.” (False) If a woman (or a person of any gender) fantasizes about sexual assault they are imagining a fantasy that is agreed upon by all parties and is acted out with consent every step of the way. Their fantasies do not reflect what rape really is: a non-consensual violent, terrorizing and humiliating assault.
“Gay men always want sex.” (False) Men who identify as gay or who have sex with other men do not always want to have sex and always have the right to say no. Stereotypes of men always wanting sex or misconceptions that people who are physically strong cannot be sexually assaulted can make some men feel as though their experiences are not valid.