The Facts about Sexual Violence
March 7, 2011
Michigan Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Several myths exist about sexual assault. These myths often shift responsibility and blame from the assailant to the victim. Understanding the myths surrounding sexual assault may help you in your recovery. What happened to you was a crime. You are not to blame for the assailant’s behavior.
Myth: Rape is caused by the perpetrator’s uncontrollable sexual urge.
Fact: Rape is an act of power and control, not sex.
Myth: Individuals who commit rape are mentally ill or psychotic and cannot help themselves.
Fact: Very few perpetrators are mentally incompetent and/or out of touch with reality. Rapes may be planned or carried out by acquaintances, intimate partners, family members or strangers.
Myth: The victim must have “asked for it” by being seductive, careless, drunk, high, etc…
Fact: No one asks to be abused, injured, or humiliated. This line of thought blames the victim for what happened instead of the perpetrator who chose to commit the crime. Individuals of all ages, from all walks of life, have been the targets of sexual assault. Not one of them “caused” their assailant to commit a crime against them.
Myth: If women would just stop drinking so much, they wouldn’t be sexually assaulted.
Fact: Alcohol is a weapon that some perpetrators use to control their victim and render them helpless. As part of their plan, an assailant may encourage the victim to use alcohol, or identify an individual who is already drunk. Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of many tools that perpetrators use.
Myth: If the victim did not physically struggle with or fight the assailant, it wasn’t really rape.
Fact: Assailants are not looking for a fight and they use many forms of coercion, threats and manipulation to rape. Alcohol and other drugs such as rophypnol (roofies) are often used to incapacitate victims. Michigan law defines sexual assault by the action of the perpetrator, not the victim. In fact, there is a specific law that says that the victim need not have resisted the perpetrator in order for it to be considered rape.
Myth: Most perpetrators are strangers to their victims.
Fact: Most rapes are committed by someone that the victim knows: a neighbor, friend, acquaintance, co-worker, classmate, spouse, partner, or ex-partner.
Myth: Serial Rapists are uncommon.
Fact: Most every perpetrator is a serial rapist, meaning that they choose to use coercion, violence, threats or force, etc., to assault women on a repeated basis.