The Truth About Rape and Sexual Assault

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains discussions of common myths surrounding rape and sexual assault. If you feel like this topic might be too upsetting to read or even trigger harmful memories, then quit reading and do what is best for you.

Topics of rape and sexual assault can be very uncomfortable, and even triggering for some. The nature of these issues is understandably distressing. However, they are important conversations to have if we want to foster an environment that encourages victims to come forward.

1) Sexual assault happens because the perpetrator doesn’t have control over their sex drive or because the perpetrator is sexually repressed.

Rape and sexual assault are about power and control. People who commit rape are the ones at fault, not their victims.

2) Sexual assault occurs more often in sexually repressed societies due to that repression.

There is an idea that, if people are given more sexual opportunities in a society, then incidents of rape and sexual assault will decrease. This is tied into the previously mentioned myth that rapists and those that commit sexual assault do so because they are repressed or can’t control themselves. People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to their victims bodies and don’t care about their victim’s agency OR seek to violate that agency.

3) Only conventionally attractive women get sexually assaulted or raped.

This myth reinforces several harmful notions. Women of varying levels of attractiveness get raped and sexually assaulted, and it has nothing to do with their desirability. At the same time, it implies that people commit sexual assault because they are attracted to their victim, which isn’t always the case. As was previously mentioned, sexual assault is about power and control.

4) Females are the only ones that get raped.

People of ALL genders, including men, are victims of sexual assault and rape. Dismissing or downplaying the impact when it happens to non women is very toxic and unhelpful. Remember that 1 out of 10 rape victims are male. Transgender students are at a higher risk for being on the receiving end of sexual violence. “21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males” (RAINN)

5) Transgender people are far less likely to be sexual predators/ rapists ESPECIALLY if they are allowed into the bathroom they feel safest in.

This plays into the transphobic stereotype that portrays trans people as sexual abusers. There are no statistics that prove that any member of the LGBT+ community is more likely to commit rape / sexual assault than heterosexual cisgender people. What we do know is that heterosexual & cisgender men are most likely to be sex offenders. Not queer or trans people. (RAINN)

6) Men are the only ones capable of committing sexual assault, therefore woman on man rape isn’t a thing.

Women can be rapists, and it is important to send the message that women perpetrators are just as bad as men perpetrators. Not doing so pushes forward the idea that the rape “wasn’t actual rape” because it was committed by a woman. This also implies that woman on woman & man on man rape isn’t a big deal. I want to be very clear: rape is harmful regardless of the gender of the victim or the gender of the rapist.

7) A nice or charming person can’t be a rapist because they are nice. Or, “I’ve known the perpetrator my whole life, and they do great work and I can personally attest to how great they are.”

Nice and charming people can be rapists. People who do great work for the community can be rapists. Moreover, nice and charming people that you know and are close with can be rapists.

8) Men are predisposed to be rapists because of their biology / hormones / not being able to control of their heightened male sex drives. (Nature VS Nurture argument)

While it is true that the number of reported rapes are mostly perpetrated by men, I don’t believe it is due to male biology. This can’t be the case because it comes from the idea that people who commit rape do so because they can’t control their sex drives. As was previously stated, rape is about power and control over the victim NOT about the rapists lack of control over their sex drive.

I think that men and women are raised in a society that pushes harmful ideas about male biology & masculinity, which is why I think most reported rapes are perpetrated by men. It is well within our reach to change the messages that we send about masculinity to young boys and men. More generally, it is also well within our reach to teach young adults about consent from an early age.

Click here for a video on consent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8

9) Stranger rape is the most common type of rape.

Statistics tell us that people are more likely to be raped by someone they know, and not by a stranger. Remember that 7/10 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. (RAINN)

10) Black men target white women to assault

Saying that black men are more likely to attack white women plays into harmful racist stereotypes where black men are portrayed as sexual predators. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), 57% of rapists are white, 27% are black, 8% are an unknown ethnicity, 6% are other, and 1% are mixed race.

Additionally, Native American women are twice as likely to be raped compared to the general population, not white women.

HOW DO YOU TALK TO SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN ATTACKED?

RAINN has a helpful website with tips for talking with survivors of sexual assault, which you can access here: https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault

RESOURCES FOR SURVIVORS

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (available 24/7)

Services offered by Birmingham’s Rape Response Crisis Center: https://crisiscenterbham.org/sexual-assault-services/rape-response.htm

Sources:
https://sapac.umich.edu/article/52
https://www.marshall.edu/wcenter/sexual-assault/rape-culture/
https://rapecrisis.org.uk/mythsvsrealities.php
https://www.rainn.org/statistics/perpetrators-sexual-violence
https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence
https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault

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