Sexual Misconduct Myths

Sexual Misconduct myths are, unfortunately, extremely common. This section is designed to debunk these myths and provide you with the truths about these behaviors. 

Please note: the gray boxes in each category include the myths, with their drop-downs being the associated truths.

Rape and Sexual Assault Myths
Rape only happens to certain types of women

Any person, regardless of their identities such as age, race, class, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc… can be raped. It is not limited to women, and it is therefore also not limited to certain types of women.

Most sexual assaults occur as spontaneous acts in dark alleys and are committed by strangers

The majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knew/knows, not a stranger. Also, sexual assaults can take place anywhere and it may be in broad daylight or in the victims home. They are not limited by time and place.

A rapist is easy to spot in a crowd

There is nothing that can physically distinguish a rapist from another person. Rapists can be any race, gender, ethnicity, size, etc…

If people just “relaxed” and “enjoyed themselves,” rape would not exist

Rape is not about enjoyment, relaxation, or other emotions; it is the result of sex or penetration without consent. Regardless of what those involved are feeling, nothing will change the fact that, if there is no consent, that constitutes rape.

Victims lie about rape as an act of revenge or guilt

This False Reporting Guide by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that false reports occur less than 10% of the time, with a judge of the New York State Supreme Court stating that it is only about 2%. This rate is the same as other major crime reports. 

If the victim was incapacitated at the time of the assault, they are at least partially to blame.

A victim of sexual assault is never responsible for what happened, regardless of how much substance, whether it be alcohol or another drug, was consumed. Responsibility is always entirely on the perpetrator. 

People who dress or act in a certain way are asking to be sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault is never the victim’s fault. Behavior, dress, or anything else regarding the victim is not a request to be assaulted. Nobody “asks” or deserves this type of attack.

Sexual asasault is a crime of passion and lust.

Sexual assault is a crime of violence. The perpetrators seek to dominate, humiliate, punish, or otherwise harm their victims. It is not a crime of passion or lust.

Rape requires the use of the weapon.

The large majority of rape and sexual assault incidents do not involve a weapon; rape is the result of forced sexual conduct without consent. A weapon is not a defining characteristic of this sort of attack.

It is not rape if the involved parties were/are in a relationship.

Just because there has been prior consent made in the relationship, or because people were/are romantically involved, that does not mean that there is consent for all future sex. Current or former intimate partners are capable of being perpetrators or victims of rape in their relationship.

It is not rape if the involved parties were on a date.

Sex without consent is legally defined as rape, regardless of situation. Dating does not give a person the right to force their sexual desires onto another. 

Rape is an impulsive, uncontrollable act of sexual gratification.

This myth is kept alive by those who argue that most rapes are spontaneous and the result of a sexually frustrated individual seeing someone attractive and being unable to control themselves. This is wrong. In fact, most rapes are planned rather than spontaneous. Victims are not chosen for their attractiveness, but rather for their vulnerability. All evidence shows that rape is an aggressive act of violence and a display of power; it is not an act of passion or sexual gratification.

Identity and Behavior Myths
Men can’t experience sexual misconduct

Anyone, regardless of gender and including men, can experience sexual assault.

Men are only sexual assaulted by other men.

Men can be assaulted by anyone of any gender, not just other men.

 

Men are always looking for/ willing to engage in sexual activity.

Like anyone else, men may have times where they are looking for/ willing to engage in sexual activity as well as times where they are not. Gender does not correlate to sexual interest.

Sexual misconduct cannot happen against your will.

No victim of sexual assault is willing it to happen. Perpetrators will overpower victims with the threat and/or use of violence. Often in cases of rape or incest, an assailant will use the victim’s trust in them to isolate the victim. 

A victim of sexual misconduct will be hysterical after the experience.

Victims may feel and exhibit a variety of responses to the trauma, including but not limited to shock, calm, anger, fear, hysteria, or disbelief. Each individual will cope with the trauma of what they experienced in a different way, and each way is valid.

Only young, pretty women experience sexual misconduct.

Victims of sexual assault range in age from infancy to old age, appearance is rarely a factor, and all genders experience sexual assault, not just women. Assailants often choose victims who seem the most vulnerable to attack, including children, elderly folk, physically or emotionally disabled individuals, those with substance use disorder, and houseless people. 

People who commit sexual assaults are all mentally ill, abnormal perverts.

Sexual offenders come from all walks of life. Some are seen as “ordinary” or “normal” and still sexually assault victims as a way to assert power and control over them. Perpetuating the idea that all sexual assault perpetrators are mentally ill is harmful to the community of people who have mental illness, as it conflates the two. This is wrong.

It is not sexual assault if the victim just “let it happen” and did not fight back.

Anytime someone experiences sexual conduct against their will, that constitutes sexual assault, regardless of whether or not they fought back. Often, things such as the size of the perpetrator, threats made to the victim, or the victim’s shock and fear at the time of the attack may render them unable to fight back against the attacker. This does not change the fact that it was sexual assault.

Identity (race, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc…) is not related to sexual misconduct.

Identities such as race, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as personal history and cultural values can all impact how someone understands and recovers from sexual assault. Additionally, research shows that minoritized and vulnerable groups (including BIPOC, disabled individuals, LGBTQ+) are sexually assaulted at disproportionate rates. To learn more about personal identity and sexual assault, please see here [link to section].

Gay men are more likely to be perpetrators, and all men who sexually assault other men are gay.

One’s sexuality does not make them more or less likely to be a perpetrator, and men who assault other men are not always gay. Perpetuating these myths is harmful to individuals who identify as gay.

“Real” men are always able to resist sexual assault.

Men’s “realness” and worth is not defined by their ability to resist assault. Assaults are never the fault of the victim, and if there was sexual conduct without consent, it is always an assault regardless of whether or not there was resistance. 

 

Intimate Partner Violence Myths
Men can’t be victims of intimate partner violence

Battering affects all people, regardless of gender; men are capable of being victims.

Intimate partner violence affects only a small part of the population

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 25-50% of people in relationships experience at least one form of relationship violence. This issue is very present, and awareness is incredibly important.

Intimate partner violence occurs only among poor, uneducated families and/or among Communities of Color

People of all classes, education levels, races, religions, nationalities, ages, marital statuses, and gender and sexual identities can be impacted by intimate partner violence.

Fights between partners are a natural part of life.

Disagreements occur in all relationships, but intimate partner violence goes beyond just a “heated argument” or disagreement. Intimate partner violence, or domestic abuse, involves emotional degradation and/or physical violence. 

“A slap never hurt anyone”

Battering can cause emotional and physical damage and can even be fatal. Nearly 50% of all women murdered in the U.S. are killed by their male partners, showing that a slap does hurt people, and a slap can kill.

Victims secretly want to be hit, otherwise they would leave.

Leaving may be difficult for victims due to a complex set of factors, such as threats, shame, fear of greater injury or death, degradation to self-esteem, or even love or concern for their abuser. Additionally, factors such as age, support systems available, physical and mental ability, living in rural areas, fear of deportation, or even not knowing that help is available can also impact a victim staying with their abuser. 

Some victims are asking for it by the way they act.

A victim’s behavior, what they do versus what they don’t do, has no effect on reducing violence in a relationship. Intimate partner violence is about the abuser’s need to have power over and control the abused. Often, this behavior is justified by being blamed on something the victim said or did. Nobody deserves this kind of abuse.

Intimate partner violence is just the result of alcohol, in one or both parties.

Alcohol and other drugs are often an excuse for violence, but they are not the cause. Even individuals with chronic substance use disorders are violent when they are sober, and not all perpetrators of intimate partner violence are users of alcohol or other drugs. Victims may use substances as an escape or coping mechanism, and this may lead to an addiction. However, abuse is not just the result of alcohol.

Intimate partner violence only occurs between married people.

Intimate partner violence occurs at equal rates between married couples and dating couples. Our understanding of abuse is greater for married couples than it is for dating couples. Consequently, sometimes the knowledge of law enforcement or the laws that they must enforce do not meet the needs of victims of dating violence.