Myths perpetuate false information and powerfully influence how we think about issues. There are many myths surrounding sexualized violence that perpetuate the incorrect ideas that sexualized violence is not a problem and/or that stigmatize the survivor. Here are some myths that need to be busted with reality:
Myth: Sexual assault does not occur often.
Reality: More than half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. Every minute in Canada, a woman or child is being sexually assaulted. Sexual assault by someone known to the survivor is more common than left-handedness, heart attacks, or alcoholism.
Myth: Women lie about being sexually assaulted to get revenge, for their own benefit, or because they feel guilty afterwards about having sex.
Reality: The rate of false reporting for sexual assault is no different than any other crime. Only 6% of sexual assaults are reported. In reality, sexual assault by someone known to the survivor is the most underreported crime in Canada.
Myth: Sexual assault is committed often by strangers.
Reality: 80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the survivor.
Myth: The best way for a woman to protect herself from sexual assault is to avoid being alone at night in dark, deserted places.
Reality: Most sexual assaults occur in a private home.
Myth: Women who are sexually assaulted “ask for it” by the way they look or dress.
Reality: The number one characteristic perpetrators look for in a victim is vulnerability, not appearance.
Myth: Rape is a sexual act taken too far.
Reality: Rape is an act of violence first and foremost that involves asserting power and control over another person and taking power from her/him.
Myth: Men of certain races and backgrounds are more likely to sexually assault women.
Reality: Men who commit sexual assault come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age, and social group. Similarly, women who are sexually assaulted come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age, and social group.
Myth: Women cannot be sexually assaulted by their husbands, boyfriends, or partners.
Reality: Legally, all people (women included) have the right to refuse any act of a sexual nature with anyone. Sexual assault within a relationship has been illegal in Canada since 1983.
Myth: If a woman consents to sex, then changes her mind and her partner keeps going, she has not been sexually assaulted.
Reality: Legally, all people (women included) have the right to change their minds at anytime during sexual contact. Consent must be given every time people engage in sexual contact.
Myth: If a woman is drunk or passed out from drinking, it is okay to have sex with her.
Reality: Legally, no one can consent to sex if her/his judgment is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Myth: If the perpetrator is drunk at the time of the sexual assault, he/she cannot be accused of sexual assault.
Reality: The perpetrator is responsible for his/her actions no matter how intoxicated he/she is. As he/she would not have been able to receive consent from the victim because of his/her own drunkenness, he/she would not be able to use “being drunk” as a legal defense.
Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted.
Reality: Anyone can be sexually assaulted (however, most sexual assaults are perpetrated by men against both women and other men). Furthermore, a physical response to sexual contact is not consent.
Myth: Sex workers cannot be sexually assaulted.
Reality: Sex workers can be sexually assaulted and have as much right as anyone else to medical care and legal options. Sexual assault is a crime of violence, not just an act of a sexual nature.
Myth: Men who sexually assault women are either mentally ill or sexually starved.
Reality: Men who function and participate normally in society can commit sexual assault to assert power and control.
Myth: It is only sexual assault if weapons or physical violence is used.
Reality: Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual act. It can include anything from unwanted sexual touching to rape and sexual exploitation. Moreover, 80% of survivors show no visible injuries.