Myth – Many women are led to believe that if they are not part of a certain category of women then they are ‘safe’ from being raped. Women and girls of all ages, classes, culture, ability, sexuality, race and faith are raped. Attractiveness has little significance. Reports show that there is a great diversity in the way targeted women act or dress. Rapists choose women based on their vulnerability not their physical appearance.
Reality – The myth is that “everyone knows when a woman says no, she often means yes. Women secretly want to be raped.” Legally a person has the right to change their mind about having sex at any point of sexual contact. If a sexual partner does not stop at the time a person says no, this is sexual assault. If a person is in a relationship with someone or has had sex with a person before, this does not mean that they cannot be assaulted by that person. Consent must be given every time two people engage in sexual contact. Sex without consent is rape.
Myth – Reporting to the police can be a difficult decision. There are many myths that underlie the belief that women make false and malicious allegations of rape against innocent men. Studies show however, that the allegations of rape that are false are exactly the same as that of any other crime i.e. 2% (Lonsway and Fitzgerald, 1994).
Myth – Blaming the mother instead of placing the blame solely on the offender has a long history in our society and does not serve the best interest and protection of abused children. Women are primarily seen as the protectors and nurturers of children, so when it is learned that a child has been sexually abused, many people immediately blame the mother for “allowing the abuse to occur” or, “not paying close enough attention” to her children, without actually knowing the details of the case. “Where was the mother?!” is often the first question people think of when hearing of children being abused.
Mothers of sexually abused children often feel that no matter what they do it is considered wrong by the legal system and society in general. If they react to their child’s disclosure of sexual abuse with anger and take steps to ensure the safety and protection of their child, they may be called mean, hysterical or insane in court proceedings. Mothers who work to suppress their unmitigated rage, calmly carrying out the duties needed to protect their children, say they are accused of falsely accusing their child’s perpetrator.
Myth – Studies show that most rapes are premeditated i.e. they are either wholly or partially planned in advance. All rapes committed by more than one assailant are always planned. Men can quite easily control their urges to have sex – they do not need to rape a woman to satisfy them. Rape is an act of violence – not sexual gratification. Men who rape or sexually assault does so to dominate, violate and control.
Myth – The majority of sexual assaults are committed by men against women, but anyone can be sexually assaulted. Often when women are assaulted by other women they fear they will not be believed. It is important to realise that women who are assaulted by other women are able to access support and are believed.
Reality – Men who rape or sexually assault women and girls will often use weapons or threats of violence to intimidate women. The fact that there is no visible evidence of violence does not mean that a woman has not been raped. When women are faced with the reality of rape, they have to make second by second decisions, all of which are directed at minimising the harm done to them. It could be that at the point where initial resistance, struggling, reasoning etc. have failed, the fear of further violence often limits women’s resistance and the only form of control that seems available to women at this point is limiting the harm done to them. It could be that the woman freezes immediately and is unable to put up resistance at all.
> Myth – Only 11% of rapes are committed by ‘strangers’. Women are raped in their homes and in their work places, where they are less likely to be believed and even less likely to report. More than 85% of rapes are committed by known men.
Myth – There is always a lot of focus on women having to stay safe, having to be conscious about not going out late at night, not wearing too short a skirt, not drinking too much or children being taught not to talk to strangers etc. However, as we already know, the majority of the perpetrators are known to the victim. There should be more focus on working with the perpetrators and men in general.
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