Common Misconceptions about Sexual Violence

Several misconceptions exist and are highly normalized about sexual assault. These often shift responsibility and blame from the perpetrator to the victim. Understanding common dynamics and facts surrounding sexual assault may help you in your recovery. What happened to you was a crime. You are not to blame for the perpetrator’s behavior.

“Rape is caused by the perpetrator’s uncontrollable sexual urge.”

There is a belief that rape is caused by uncontrollable sexual urges the perpetrator has not control over. Rape is actually an act of power and control and the sex is a tactic use by the perpetrator to gain this power.

“Sexual assault only happens to certain people.”

While sexual assault does occur to some populations at a higher rate, it occurs in all demographics. There is not a specific “victim.” Since sexual assault is about power and control, everyone is, unfortunately, a target.

“Rape is only committed by a stranger.”

The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone familiar. This could be a friend, family member, date, acquaintance or even romantic partner. 

“If you care about the abuser, or have a relationship with them, it doesn’t count as rape.” 

Being sexually attracted or having romantic feelings for someone doesn’t give them the right to hurt, cross your boundaries, or make anyone do something they don’t want to do. It is pretty common to have mixed feelings and thoughts about the perpetrator if there is a relationship involved.

“If you don’t fight back, it isn’t really rape.”

Many people “freeze” during a sexual assault. Shock, immobility, and a lack of fighting back can actually be a defense mechanism. For some people, the brain kicks into “freeze” mode automatically and can’t be controlled. For others, not fighting back may be exactly what they needed in order to get through the ordeal and reduce harm or injury. Submission is not consent. 

“Sexual assault is a consequence of drinking too much.”

Sexual assault is NEVER the survivor’s fault. Everyone has the right to be safe at any time and any place. If someone is assaulted while incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol, the only factor responsible is being  in the presence of a rapist. Therefore, the perpetrator, not the survivor, is the person responsible for the crime.

“The victim must have “asked for it” by being seductive, careless, drunk, high, etc.”

No  one  asks  to  be  abused, injured, or humiliated. This line of thought blames the survivor for what happened instead of the perpetrator who chose to commit the crime. No one “causes” someone to commit a crime against them.

Adapted from UC Davis CARE’s “Survivor’s Guide”