Fact: Rape and sexual assault are systemic societal problems that affect both men and women. Saying that rape and sexual assault are "women's issues" wrongfully places the responsibility of the perpetrator's actions and the criminal acts with the victim. In addition, women can be perpetrators and men can be victims. Studies show that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will be subjected to domestic and sexual assault in their lifetime. (NIPSVS, 2012) All victims – men and women alike – should be encouraged to disclose assaults and reach out for help and resources.
Myth #2: Men cannot be sexually assaulted by women.
Fact: Although the majority of sexual assaults of men are committed by men, women do sexually assault men. Sexual assault is not always enacted through overwhelming physical force: it can involve emotional manipulation whereby a man can be coerced into a sexual act out of fear of potential repercussions for his relationships, work, etc. The number of men identifying sexual abuse by a woman as a boy or young man has increased over the past few years. Ideas that men should always want sex with women and that as a young man you should feel lucky if you have sex with an older woman also make it difficult for a man to publicly name sexual assault by a woman.
Myth #3: If you avoid strangers, you can limit your chances of being sexually assaulted.
Fact: Recent studies show that 75-90 percent of sexual assault victims know their assailant. More often than not, they are partners or ex-partners, friends, family members or acquaintances.
Myth #4: Rape is about sex and lust.
Fact: Rape and sexual assault are crimes of violence, involving the exercise of power and control over another person. Rape is not about lust or passion. It is about harming another person and using violence to maintain this power and control. No matter what a person is wearing or doing at the time of an attack, there is never an excuse for one person to assault another.
Myth #5: All sexual victims will report the crime immediately to the police. If they do not report it or delay in reporting it, then they must have changed their minds after it happened, wanted revenge, or didn't want to look like they were sexually active.
Fact: Because a person does not immediately report an assault or chooses not to report it at all does not mean that the assault did not happen. There are many reasons why a sexual assault victim may not report the assault to the police. It is not easy to talk about being sexually assaulted. The experience of re-telling what happened may cause the person to relive the trauma. Other reasons for not immediately reporting the assault or not reporting it at all include fear of retaliation by the assailant, fear of not being believed, fear of being blamed for the assault, fear of being "re-victimized" if the case goes through the criminal justice system, belief that the assailant will not be held accountable, wanting to forget the assault ever happened, not recognizing that what happened was sexual assault or feeling shame and/or shock. In fact, reporting a sexual assault incident to the police is the exception and not the norm. From 1993 to 1999, studies estimate that about 70 percent of rape and sexual assault crimes were not reported to the police. If a victim chooses to have an evidentiary exam, best medical and evidentiary practice states it should be performed no more than seven days after the assault.
Myth #6: Only gay men are sexually assaulted. And it is gay men who sexually assault other men.
Fact: Any man can be raped, whether he identifies as straight, gay, bi, transgender or fluid sexuality. Rape is an act of force or coercion where someone's personal choice is ignored. Just as being robbed does not tell you anything about someone's sexuality, neither does rape. However, research does suggest that gay-identifying men are more likely to be the subject of sexual violence. Most men who sexually assault other men identify themselves as straight.
Myth #7: "She was drunk but she was into it."
Fact: If someone is intoxicated, they legally cannot consent to sex. Half of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption by the victim, assailant or both. Consensual sex is something we do with each other, not to each other.