Leave this Website

Every person, regardless of their culture, education, socioeconomic status, religion, occupation, race, sexual orientation, gender, sexuality or privilege has the right to say no to unwanted sexual touching. Unfortunately, many of society’s views about women, sexuality and power are grounded in deeply ingrained notions of oppression, racism, sexism, hetero-sexism, homophobia and other forms of power. The result is the ever evolving myth and misconception that the victim/survivor is to blame.

These myths about sexual violence and abuse keep victims from speaking out, getting help and holding their perpetrators responsible for the assault. The truth is, no one consents to sexual assault.

Getting the facts and challenging those myths can be the first step in ending sexual violence, and finding ways to best support victims/survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

Understanding Rape Culture
Rape culture is a culture in which dominant ideas, social practices and media images condone sexual assault by viewing sexual violence as something that is normal and even expected. Rape Culture permeates various societal structures, including social institutions which represent a microcosm of our larger society. Rape culture sees that sexual violence is sustained by a society that both covers up and excuses sexual assault as well as places the fault of the assault on the survivor – often referred to as victim blaming. Rape Culture is perpetuated by jokes about rape; silence from institutions when allegations of sexual assault surface; teaching women not to get themselves raped with advice about clothing choices or walking alone, rather than teaching individuals about consent; and doubting survivors and reports of sexual assault.

Rape culture is also reflected in general attitudes about what sexual assault is or is not.

Myths about sexual violence indicate a lack of understanding about consent, and can indicate that sexual assaults under these circumstances are viewed as, at least partially, the survivor’s fault. These attitudes create a lack of confidence in reporting and going through a legal process, because survivors feel as though they will not be believed and will not receive justice, or they might even believe that they really did “ask for it.” By understanding rape culture, it will make problematic attitudes about sexual violence easier to address.

Myth:
Women lie about being sexually assaulted all the time.

Fact:
Only 2-3% of reported sexual assaults turn out to be false. This percentage is actually lower than the false reporting of other offences (like theft). It’s important to remember that sexual assault is extremely under-reported with only 10% ever being reported to the police, which means that 9 out of 10 women never report their assault to the authorities. The numbers are even lower for level 1 sexual assaults (sexual touching, etc) where 96% went unreported.

Myth:
Most sexual assaults happen in hidden alleyways and by a stranger.

Fact:
Majority of sexual assaults happen during the day, at home, and by someone we know. Studies show that only 25% of assaults are committed by stranger. However, some studies suggest that 85% of women knew their assailant, be that a friend, partner, service provider, family member or acquaintance.

Myth:
Rohypnol and GHB are the most common “date rape drugs.”

Fact:
Alcohol is the #1 drug used in drug facilitated sexual assault. According to Johnson and MacKay, guys use alcohol to “increase the vulnerability of victims and to reduce resistance to sexual violence”. What’s worse, is that their friends approve.

Myth:
Women who wear sexy cloths are asking for sex!

Fact:
Sexy or revealing clothes do not equal consent. Period. Every person has the right to say when and the right to say no, despite what she or he is wearing. When we say to a woman, “Look at how you’re dressed! You’re asking for it!”, we’re putting the blame on her; thus, removing the responsibility from the perpetrator. Sexual violence is about power and control, and not desire or attraction.

Myth:
Men cannot be sexually assaulted.

Fact:
1 out of 6 men experience sexual violence in their lives. While most male sexual assaults happen under the age of 18, sexual violence does affect men.

Myth:
Women don’t commit sexual assault.

Fact:
While women commit very few reported sexual assaults, it does happen. More studies are coming out researching same-sex sexual violence and we know that sexual violence occurs within lesbian relationships. Notwithstanding, the latest statistics suggest that 99% of all sexual perpetrators are male.

Myth:
Sexual assault is a heterosexual experience.

Fact:
First and foremost, sexual assault is not about attraction, desirability, sexual orientation or intimacy. Sexual assault is about power and control.

Second, sexual assault does not discriminate. Women from every community (regardless of cultures, socioeconomic status, religion, occupation, race, education, sexual orientation, gender, sexuality or privilege) can experience sexual violence. However, we do know that certain groups are at higher risk. For instance, young adults between the age of 15-24 years are more likely to experience sexual assault. Lesbian, gay, transgendered, and bisexual individuals are also at higher risk for sexual assaults. Women of colour and First Nations, Inuit and Métis women are also at higher risk.

There are many reasons why certain demographic groups are at increased risk and most have to do with racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression that are deeply ingrained in our society and understanding of sexuality and violence.

Myth:
A woman can’t be raped by a boyfriend, partner or spouse.

Fact:
Sex cannot happen without consent. If there is no consent, it’s sexual assault. Period.  Sexual assault can happen even in long term relationships.

Myth:
Men are just overtly sexual beings.

Fact:
Both women and men are sexual beings. They are also both rational beings and able to control their own actions, be that consenting to, stopping in the middle of or continuing on with the sexual activity. It does men a disservice to assume that they are incapable of controlling their own bodies.

Toxic notions of masculinity contribute to the myth that men are overtly sexual and are unable to control their sexual urges.  The media bombards us with stereotypical and harmful images of what it means to “be a man” with normalizes dominant, over-sexualized behavior and consequently reinforces rape culture.


Some key reminders:

  • Sexual assault is about power and control, it is not about attraction or desirability.
  • When a person commits sexual assault, they are responsible. The victim is not responsible. One cannot consent to sexual assault.
  • Sexual violence can happen to anyone. Sexual violence does not discriminate from religion, culture, affluence, privilege, location, sexual orientation, profession, marital status, education, age, gender or sex.