MYTHS CONCERNING SEXUAL ASSAULT*

Myths are beliefs that are culturally formulated, socially transmitted, and factually unfounded. Myths about sexual assault deny the violent, hostile, and demeaning nature of these crimes and often shift the blame from the assailant to the victim. "If we are to eliminate rape, sexual assault and child sexual abuse, we must replace these myths with the truth --- that all people deserve protection, self-worth, and respect - and that it is unacceptable to assault, devalue or mistreat people in order to enhance one's own sense of power" (Averner. 1990).


MYTH:

Sexual assault results from an uncontrollable, impulsive sexual urge of biological origin.

TRUTH:

Sexual assault is motivated by hostility, power, and control. Clinical studies of offenders find that sexual assaults are not motivated by sexual desire or by the desire to meet biological needs. Rather, it is motivated by hostility, power, and control (Groth. 1979).  Unlike animals, humans are capable of controlling how they choose to act on or express sexual urges.


MYTH:

Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.

TRUTH:

Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Studies show that approximately 80% of adult women reporting sexual assault knew their assailant (Russo, 1990: Sorenson, 1987). In FY 1995. 83% of the women and men seeking support from Virginia sexual assault crisis centers knew their attacker.


MYTH:

Men cannot be sexually assaulted.

TRUTH:

Men are victims of sexual assault. It is estimated that 1 out of every 4-10 men will be sexually assaulted either by another male or by a female during his lifetime (Sorenson, 1987 and Burgess, 1992). In FY 1995, 7.5% of the individuals seeking services from Virginia sexual assault crisis centers were male.


MYTH:

Spouses cannot sexually assault each other.

TRUTH:

Spouses can and do sexually assault each other. Marital status does not give either partner the right to have sexual intercourse without the other spouse's consent. Marital sexual contact without consent in Virginia is a criminal offense. In FY 1995, 7.5% of individuals seeking services from Virginia sexual assault crisis centers were assaulted by their spouse.


MYTH:

Most sexual assaults are interracial.

TRUTH:

The majority of assaults are intraracial. The majority of rapes are intraracial (being of the same race), not interracial (being of different races). The National Crime Survey (NCS) (1973-87) estimates that between 12% (nonstranger rapes) and 31.5% (stranger rapes) were interracial (Wolf Harlow. 1991).


MYTH:

Most rapes occur in dark alleys.

TRUTH:

A majority of rapes occur in residence. Most rapes occur in or near a victim's residence or in or near a friend or relative's home (54%). An additional 18% of assaults occur on a street, 12% in a place of business, 8% in a parking lot or garage, and 8% in other places (NCS. 1989).


MYTH:

Sexual assault happens to women who "ask for it" by dressing provocatively or by acting seductively.

TRUTH:

Sexual assault is not a result of the way a person dresses or acts. It is the assailant who decides to assault another individual. The victim is not an accessory to the crime.


MYTH:

The crime of rape is usually reported to the police.

TRUTH:

The crime of rape is usually not reported to the police. Rape is an under-reported crime in the United States with educated estimates that for every rape reported to the police, 3 - 10 are not reported (Koss, 1987).


MYTH:

Most of the rapes reported to the police are false allegations.

TRUTH:

Most of the rapes reported to the police are not false allegations. According to the FBI, false allegations of rape are no greater than those of other crimes. It is estimated that approximately 2% of all crimes reported to the police are false allegations.


MYTH:

When a woman says no she means maybe, or yes.

TRUTH:

When a woman says no, she means no. No means no. Sexual intercourse without consent is rape. A person has the right to control his or her own body.





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Mission Statement

New Directions Center, Inc. works to reduce the impact and occurrence of sexual, emotional and physical violence by providing support services and raising community awareness.


New Directions Center, Inc.

Options for those emotionally,
physically, & sexually abused.

Hotlines:

540-886-6800

800-56-haven

Director@newdirectionscenter.org