Apparently there is a lot of educating that still needs to occur. Most guys seem to have no concept of this. Maybe because they didn’t have to learn about rape prevention in 6th grade like we did.

Several misconceptions exist about sexual assault. These misconceptions often shift responsibility and blame from the assailant to the victim. Understanding the misconceptions 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.

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x Misconception

Sexual assault happens because people need sex. People get carried away by their sexual desires and/or hormones and loose control.

✔ Truth

Sexual assault is a form of sexualized violence, that is, violence enacted in a sexual way. Like many other crimes, sexual assault is about power and control. Sexual assault happens because perpetrators put their desires over the survivor’s agency to consent. The survivor is never to blame.

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x Misconception

Sexual assault is sex.

✔ Truth

Sexual assault is an act of violence, not sex. This is an important distinction because by framing sexualized violence as about sex and not about violence we focus on the perpetrator’s narrative and not the survivor’s. Focusing on the perpetrator’s narrative leads society to blame the victim and to not hold the perpetrator accountable for their actions. Remember, sexual assault happens because perpetrators exert power over the survivor to take away any control the survivor has in choosing whether or not to engage in a sexual situation. Thus, sexual assault is not sex to the survivor — it is an act of violence.

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x Misconception

Sexual assault is correlated with sexually repressed societies. If people had more sexual opportunities, sexual assault would be less frequent.

✔ Truth

This misconception again ties sexual violence to uncontrollable sexual desire. People don’t commit sexual assault because they don’t have enough sexual opportunities. People commit sexual assault because they feel entitled to other people’s bodies and disregard other people’s right to consent.

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x Misconception

Sexual assault happens when people drink too much. If people drank less, rates of sexual assault would plummet.

✔ Truth

The consumption of alcohol does not cause sexual assault. Perpetrators, however, often use alcohol or other drugs as a means to facilitate assault. Like other criminal offenses, sexual assault is often an opportunistic crime, and perpetrators often take the survivor’s incapacitation as an opportunity to commit violence. Additionally, perpetrators often use their own substance use as a strategy for relinquishing responsibility. Like other crimes, however, being drunk when committing sexual assault does not absolve a person of responsibility. Whether or not a person is drunk, the person initiating sexual activity must always have clear and unambiguous consent to do so.

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x Misconception

If they didn’t want it to happen, they would have said something or fought back. It must have been consensual since there are no bruises or other physical evidence of assault.

✔ Truth

Many people have heard of the fight or flight response as the typical responses to danger, but it is actually fight, flight, or freeze. The freeze response is a documented neurobiological condition also referred to as tonic immobility. Tonic immobility is an autonomic mammalian response that happens in extremely fearful situations; it is uncontrollable and not something a person decides to do. Research shows that around 50% of survivors experience tonic immobility during an assault. This does not mean the sex is consensual.

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x Misconception

People often falsely accuse others of sexual assault.

✔ Truth

False accusations of sexual assault are extremely rare. Research demonstrates that rates of false reporting are consistent across violent crimes, including sexual assault. Because of the cognitive dissonance that occurs when we hear about rape, it’s difficult for people to believe that it can be true. But it’s important to remember that each individual’s personal reaction is the first step in a long path toward justice and healing for the survivor. Knowing how to respond is critical — a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face zero consequences for their crimes. If someone confides in you that they were sexually assaulted, believe them.

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Written by

Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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