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Know the Myths and Realities of Sexual Assault

Myth #1: Rape and sexual assault are really just about sex.

Fact: Sexual assault is a crime committed in a sexual manner. It is about power and humiliation, and it is socially learned behavior that correlates with history, gender roles, conditioning and how sexual violence is portrayed in the media. Sexual assault is not consensual.

Myth #2: Sexual assault only happens between people who just met or are perpetrated by a stranger.

Fact: Sexual violence has nothing to do with how well the person knows the assailant. The vast majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows: a friend, acquaintance, fellow classmate, teammate, dating partner or ex-dating partner.

Myth #3: If a person does not fight back, they weren't sexually assaulted.

Fact: Fight and flight are not the only ways a person responds during a traumatic event. During an assault, many experience tonic immobility or a "freeze response" where they cannot move or speak.

Myth #4: There are many false reports of sexual assault, especially when the victim and the assailant know each other.

Fact: National research suggested that the rate of false reporting for sexual assault is the same as for other crimes-- only 2-8%. Additionally, in the 1996 National Criminal Victimization Survey, the Bureau of Justice Statistics proposed that only 30.7% of all rapes are reported to the police. The problem of not reporting is much larger than false reports.

Myth #5: Sexual assaults only happen in or around bars, at parties or in alley ways.

Fact: Most victims who have been sexually assaulted were in an environment they considered safe and were assaulted by someone they thought they could trust.

Myth #6: Anyone who gets drunk or takes drugs is partially responsible for being sexually assaulted.

Fact: Someone who is passed out, unconscious or incapacitated because of alcohol or drugs is unable to give consent. Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault, and it is never the vicim's fault.

Myth #7: Only women can get raped.

Fact: Men can be and are sexually assaulted, and not only by other men. Though the majority of sexual assault are perpetrated by men, women can also be perpetrators.

Myth #8: Most rapes are committed by men of color.

Fact: The vast majority of violent crimes, including rape, involve a victim and offender as the same race. The majority of arrests made for sex offenses and rapes are of white men.

Myth #9: There is nothing we can do to prevent sexual violence.

Fact: Bystanders can act to prevent sexual assault violence both indirectly and directly, as well as before, during, and even after an assault has occurred. You can learn how by becoming an up-stander.