Sexual Assault Myths and Facts

Society perpetuates a number of myths that can make it difficult to understand the true dynamics of sexual assault. These beliefs are culturally formulated, socially transmitted, and factually unfounded. Myths about sexual assault deny the violent, hostile, and demeaning nature of these crimes and often shift the blame from the abuser to the victim.

Learn the myths and facts of sexual assault:

Myth: Sexual assault is caused by miscommunication or uncontrollable sexual desire.
Fact: Sexual assault is about the need for power and control. Humans can control how they choose to act on or express sexual urges.

Myth: Sexual assault happens if people "ask for it" by provocative clothes or behavior.
Fact: Sexual assault is not about appearance or acts. Such victim-blaming is harmful and ignores the perpetrator’s actions and choices.

Myth: When someone says "no" to sex, they really mean "maybe" or "yes."
Fact: When someone says “no,” they mean NO. Not saying anything also means no. Any response besides “yes” means “no.” Sexual intercourse without consent is rape.

Myth: Only women can be sexually assaulted.
Fact: Any person of any gender identity can be a victim. Women and transgender people are involved more frequently, however men can be and are sexually assaulted.

Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.
Fact: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows.

Myth: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners cannot sexually assault each other.
Fact: Spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and partners can and do sexually assault each other. Being in a relationship or marriage does not give either partner the right to sexual activity of any kind without mutual, positive, and on-going consent.

Myth: Rape is one of the most reported violent crimes.
Fact: Only 5 to 20 percent of all victims of rape report the crime.

Myth: Victims of rape seldom suffer any post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fact: Approximately 60 percent of rape victims experience post-traumatic stress disorder and 16 percent still experience problems 15 years following the rape.

Myth: Some rape victims just ask to be raped by the way they act or dress.
Fact: Rape is a violent crime. The way one dresses or acts does not give another person legal or moral right to commit any crime against that person.