Rape is never the victim’s fault. Perpetrators are always responsible for rape.
Myth: Women lie about rape.
Fact: Police statistics suggest that ‘false’ reporting of sexual assault is minimal, representing 2 to 7 % of all reported assaults. It is a reality that victims of sexual assault are more likely to remain silent about the assault than to report it. This myth protects rapist, as the victim is likely to be met with disbelief.
Myth: Women, who have been raped, “asked for it”. Nice girls don’t get raped.
Fact: This myth suggests there is something in the psychological make-up of the victim, which distinguishes her from a non-victim. This creates confusion and guilt in survivors when they are blamed for what has been done to them. This myth divides women from each other, creating stereotypes of women who are raped and those who are not. Women who are sexually assaulted are accused of dressing or behaving “provocatively”. Friendly behaviour, acceptance of car rides and entering houses alone with a male are rationalised as signs of consenting to sexual assault. The focus on the victim’s/survivor’s behaviour shifts responsibility away from the rapist.
Myth: Sexual assault, especially rape, is perpetuated by psychologically disturbed, sex-crazed madmen.
Fact: Most rapists are ‘ordinary’ men from all socio-economic classes, professions, and nationalities. Studies have found the overwhelming majority of offenders are not psychologically ‘perverted’. Rapists most often have the option to choose sex within a standard relationship, but choose rape because it is motivated by feelings other than those involved in consensual sex. Their motive is the need for power and the wish to humiliate and degrade others.
Myth: Men rape because they cannot control their sexual urges.
Fact: Men do not have uncontrollable sexual urges. In fact, men can stop themselves at any stage during intercourse. No sexual urge ever gives a man the right to rape a woman or child.
Furthermore, most rapes are premeditated and well planned, rather than ‘spontaneous uncontrollable sexual acts’.
Myth: Incest predominantly takes place in ‘dysfunctional’ families.
Fact: Incest occurs in families of every description. Research indicates there is little which markedly distinguishes between the families where incest takes place and the families where incest does not occur. The only distinction between ‘offending’ and ‘non-offending’ families is the degree to which the ‘normal’ nuclear family roles are enacted. For example, in those families where incest takes place, the male breadwinner is likely to be undisputed as ‘head of the household’ with the wife and children under his dominating command.
Myth: Incest is accepted in other cultures.
Fact: Incest is not acceptable anywhere, under any circumstances. Hewitt (1986) found no evidence ‘either in available literature or from individuals from a range of cultural backgrounds’ to support this belief.
Myth: Women can avoid being raped by not walking alone on the streets at night.
Fact: Women are subject to sexual assault indoors, outdoors, at night and during the day. 64% of reported sexual assault victims in Qld in 1995 were assaulted in a private dwelling, while 10% were assaulted on a street or in an open space. In over 80% of cases, the attack was conducted by someone known to them e.g. the women’s fathers, relatives, friends, husbands.
Myth: Children lie about incest.
Fact: Consistent with the findings of relevant research, those who work with sexually abused children strongly support the view that children rarely lie about incest. The facts show that children are more often reluctant to disclose what is happening to them. When they do disclose, they tend to underplay the effects of the incestuous abuse in an attempt to protect their family.
Myth: Women enjoy being raped.
Fact: No one enjoys sexual violations. Fundamentally, sexual pleasure requires mutual negotiation, informed consent and equality of power – the antithesis of rape. This myth reduces rape to an experience which is trivial and inconsequential when in reality sexual assault always involves coercion and often carries with it the threat of injury, mutilation or death.
Myth: Only young, sexually attractive women are raped.
Fact: There is no ‘typical’ victim. Men who sexually assault are not seeking someone who is sexually ‘attractive’ but rather someone whom the rapist perceives to be vulnerable, passive and easily controlled at the time of the assault. Research studies have shown that women and children from a wide range of ages and levels of intellectual, physical or developmental ability have been sexually assaulted. Similarly, research and police reports demonstrate that victims/survivors of sexual assault range from month old babies to 97 year old women. It is clear that the stereotype of ‘attractiveness’ does not provide the primary motivation behind sexual assault.
Myth: Sibling incest is not harmful.
Fact: Wherever there is an imbalance of power, its abuse is always an option available to the more powerful. This is as true for sibling incest as it is for adult-child incest. The power difference may be reduced in sibling incest but it is still the product of differences in age and gender.
Although the incidence of sibling incest is least reported, there is a growing awareness that it is perhaps one of the most widespread forms of incest. The fact that it so under-reported is directly linked to attitudes that sibling incest is merely a part of normal developmental sexual exploration between siblings. However, it can be exploitative and harmful.
Myth: Mothers collude and encourage incest, thereby avoiding some of their ‘responsibilities’ as wives.
Fact: The offenders choose to commit the crime of incest. In order that the crime goes undetected, the offender forces to coerce the victim into silence. It is this imposed silence, the secrecy, which perpetuates incest, and not the mother’s ‘collusion’.
Adapted from Breaking the Silence: A guide to supporting victims/survivors of sexual assault. Produced by the Centre Against Sexual Assault.
Desperately Seeking Justice - A resource & Training Manual on Violence Against Women in a Culturally Diverse Community, 1992, CASA House.
Copyright © Migrant Women's Emergency Support Service Inc. 1998
The copying of all or part of this report is permitted provided acknowledgment is made to the Migrant Women's Emergency Support Service Inc.