Thursday, September 15

Myths of Sexual Assault

Article source: Ask First Campaign, University of Toronto
   There are many myths and misconceptions about sexual assault and abuse in our society – most of which blame the victim/survivor. Myths prevent survivors from getting the help they need, and rarely hold the perpetrator accountable for his/her actions. These ideas are often based on systems of oppression such as sexism, racism, heterosexism or other forms of power.

Have you heard any of these dangerous examples?
  • Women ask to get assaulted when they go out late at night, wear sexy clothes, or dance close to someone.
  • Guys never get assaulted. What guy would turn down sex? What kind of a guy couldn’t defend himself?
  • Women make up assault to get attention or cover up that they wanted to have sex.
    Lesbians are gay because they haven’t had a good man yet. A gay man isn’t a real man.
  • You can’t blame a guy if he gets excited and can’t stop. If you spend a lot of money on a date, she/he owes you sex.
  • Everyone has sex when they are drunk; it’s no big deal.

Learn the Facts

MYTH: Most sexual assaults occur by deranged men who jump out from behind the bushes to assault women.

FACT: The majority of survivors (up to 85% in some studies) indicate that the person who assaulted them was someone they knew, such as a boyfriend, friend, family member, acquaintance, or service provider.
Why do we think the myth is true? It’s easier to believe that a stranger, and not someone you know and trust, would hurt you this way. Stranger assault is also more widely reported in the media and to the police, which perpetuates this idea.

MYTH: If a woman is wearing revealing or sexy clothes, she wants sex.

FACT: Every woman has the right to wear what she wants, and to choose her sexual partner. The idea that someone “asked for it” because of what she was wearing blames the victim instead of the perpetrator. You have to ask if someone wants to have sex.

Why do we think the myth is true? In our culture, women’s bodies, and sex are used to sell everything. It ends up perpetuating the message that women who wear certain clothing are there for the taking for the successful man who buys the right car, beer and so on.

MYTH: A woman says “no” because she doesn’t want to seem too forward. She really wants me to keep trying.

FACT: No means no. If you are ever unsure of what a woman is trying to communicate, ask her. If you persist verbally or physically, regardless of her “no”, you are crossing the line.

Why do we think the myth is true? Popular culture and films often show men who persist in trying to get women to go out with them or have sex, despite the fact that the women have said no. In movies, these tactics are seen as successful because women get worn down and change their minds, which reinforces attitudes that stalking or coercive behaviour are okay ways of getting women to do what men want.

MYTH: If someone stops resisting, it means he/she wants me to continue.

FACT: Survivors of sexual assault indicate that they felt scared or helpless when the perpetrator didn’t stop after they said no. Common responses to fear are flight, fight, or freeze.

Why do we think the myth is true? Once again, it is about blaming the victim. There is also an underlying myth that because women really want it, they will put up a certain amount of resistance, and then give up. When women give up, it is generally because they are fearful of increased violence when the perpetrator is not stopping.

MYTH: Men cannot be sexually assaulted (sometimes mixed up with the idea that men always want sex).

FACT: Men and boys are sexually assaulted. Boys are at greatest risk during adolescence. Because of some of the myths of masculinity, often men are reluctant to come forward and speak about sexual assault.

Why do we think the myth is true? Cultural ideas dictate that men should be strong and in control, and that if a man is sexually assaulted—whether by a male or female—he must be weak. Men who are abused or who don’t fit the masculine stereotype are often demeaned by being called wimps, girls, or fags. Perpetrators who assault men and boys, like those who assault women and girls, are most often heterosexual men.

Homophobia can silence men and boys who are sexually assaulted, because male victims fear that someone might think they are gay if they disclose they were sexually assaulted by another man.

MYTH: If you have been dating a long time, then it’s not sexual assault if you coerce or force your partner to have sex.

FACT: Sexual assault occurs anytime you engage in sexual activity without someone’s consent. Just because you have been dating someone for a long time does not mean you have the right to have sex with them, or that he/she should agree to have sex with you. What’s important is not the length of time you have been with someone, but rather that you respect their right to choose if and when they want to have sex.

Why do we think the myth is true? There are many reasons for this, some of which originates in the patriarchal marriage laws that did not allow for rape in marriage. Sometimes sex is also seen as an exchange, or something owed because of the amount that a man has invested into a relationship.

MYTH: Women lie and make up stories about being sexually assaulted to cover up that they had sex willingly or to get revenge on someone.

FACT: The number of false reports for sexual assault is consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada. However, due to the nature of sexual assault, the outcomes are dramatically different—in terms of charging and conviction rates. The victim has to go through a significant public ordeal, which in fact prevents many women from reporting sexual assault. Sexual assault carries such a stigma that most women would prefer not to talk about it. Therefore, while possible, women rarely lie about sexual assault.

Why do we think the myth is true? One reason is that the perpetrators of sexual assault are most often “normal men”, known by their victim, who people believe “could not possibly do such a thing”. When a woman reports sexual assault, people find it easier to think that she is lying, rather than believe her story.

MYTH: You cannot expect guys to stop once they are sexually excited.

FACT: Men have control over their own actions. Regardless of sexual arousal, a man can stop what he is doing, even if it makes him uncomfortable. If a man does not stop, it is because he does not want to stop—not because he can’t. He is violating the rights of the woman or man he is with.

Why do we think the myth is true? Because men have been using this excuse for a long time, it has become a part of what we think is reality.


  • The person who commits a sexual assault is always responsible.
    It is never someone’s fault for being assaulted. It is not fair to blame the survivor for something you think they should have known or should have done to prevent the assault.
  • Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education, marital status…. (You get the idea)
  • It is very very likely that you already know someone who has been assaulted, even if you are not aware of it.
  • How you respond, and what you say, when someone talks to you about sexual assault is important.