Myths and Facts about Sexual Assault

Sexual Assault

Myths vs. Facts



The primary motive for sexual assault is sexual.  People who commit sexual assault do not have any other outlet for their sexual needs.

The major motive for sexual assault is power – to overpower and control another person.  Rape is not about sex.  It is sexualized violence, not violent sex.  3 out of 5 offenders are in consenting sexual relationships.  The myth can allow shifting of blame for sexual assault from the offender to the victim.

Sexual assault is an impulsive act.

In 71% of sexual assaults, the offender made plans to sexually assault a specific person or someone.  The offender often takes advantage of a person in a vulnerable situation

The victim provokes the sexual assault.

Someone’s actions or dress cannot send a message “asking” for sexual assault.  In fact, the fact discussed above, makes irrelevant the survivor’s demeanor or apparel at the time of the sexual assault.  It is preposterous to believe someone would ask for or enjoy a physical attack involving risks that include venereal disease, pregnancy, injury, or even death.

Sexual assault occurs only or mostly among strangers.

In 9 out of 10 sexual assaults, the victim knew the offender as an acquaintance, friend, family, etc.

Anyone can prevent sexual assault if he/she really wants to.

This myth asserts that no one can be forced to have sex.  In fact, since nearly 90% of all sexual assaults involve threats of physical harm or actual use of force, it follows that a person might submit to a sexual assault to prevent more severe bodily injury or death.  Vulnerability to assault also increases because most women are not brought up to be physically aggressive, and generally are not as strong as most men.

Offenders are “perverts.”

This myth assumes that only “sick” or “insane” people are

offenders and, again, that obtaining sex is the primary motive for sexual assault.  Believing this myth may cause us to expect the offender to be a marked person with particular characteristics.  If the accused appears and acts normal, it is very hard to believe he/she could have committed the crime.

Women frequently make false accusations of sexual assault.

Sexual assault and other felonies have the same false report rate (2-4%).  Survivors, who are aware that many other people believe this myth, may be afraid to report and may be hesitant to tell anyone, for fear that no one will believe them.

Most women secretly think it would be exciting to be taken “by a man who will show her he is boss.”

Much fiction and fantasy writing promotes this idea.  Regardless, there is a difference between fiction and real life.  In a fantasy, the person fantasizing is in control; in a sexual assault, the survivor is not in control and fears being killed.  Few women wish for a situation so terrifying that they will do anything to prevent being beaten and/or killed.

It cannot happen to me.

Anyone may be sexually assaulted.  Studies show that victims include 6 month old babies to 99 year-old women, people of color, lesbians/gays, people with disabilities, etc.  1 out of 3 women and 1 in 7 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  Approximately only 1 out of 10 sexual assaults are ever reported to law enforcement.