TRIGGER WARNING: This blog post will be discussing the following: Rape, Rape Culture, Sexual Assault and Child Molestation.
The Things We Don’t Talk About is going to be a series of blog-posts I’m going to be writing with the primary focus of Rape Culture and Sexual Assault/Sexual Abuse Experiences, I will also be discussing my own experiences with Rape Culture, Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault. Now, I have obtained the bulk of these Rape Culture Myths and Facts from The Blue Bench, however as the site is mostly orientated towards rape and sexual assault statistics in the United States of America, I’ll also be adding relevant Australian orientated information to the Myths and Facts.
The Blue Bench – What Is Sexual Assault?
Myths & Facts
There are many myths about sexual assault that are both commonly accepted and continuously perpetuated in today’s society. These myths and beliefs place blame on victims while minimizing the responsibility of the offender and the seriousness of the crime. As a result, victims of sexual assault are often left feeling isolated and ashamed without the support they need to begin to heal.
Understanding the facts and dispelling the myths surrounding sexual assault is crucial to ensuring that victims are treated with respect and receive the support and services they need.
MYTH: Sexual assault is often the result of miscommunication or a mistake.
FACT: Sexual assault is a crime, never simply a mistake. It does not occur due to a miscommunication between two people. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact obtained without consent through the use of force, threat of force, intimidation, or coercion.
MYTH: Sexual assault won’t happen to me or to anyone I know.
FACT: Men, women and children of all ages, races, religions, and economic classes, and can be and have been, victims of sexual assault. Sexual assault occurs in rural areas, small towns and larger cities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a rape or attempted rape occurs every 5 minutes in the United States.
BR KYLE: According to the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, “Anyone can experience sexual assault. 1 in 5 women in Australia will experience sexual assault at some time in their life. 7% of all people who experience sexual assault are adult men. While age is no barrier to experiencing sexual assault, women aged 15 to 24 years are most at risk.”
MYTH: Sexual assault is provoked by the victim’s actions, behaviors, or by the way they dress.
FACT: Sexual assault is NEVER the victim’s fault. Sexual assault is a violent attack on an individual, not a spontaneous crime of sexual passion. For a victim, it is a humiliating and degrading act. No one “asks” for or caused their assailant to commit a crime against them.
BR KYLE: According to the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, “If you have money in your pocket does that mean you want to be robbed? Research shows that sexual assault is not caused by the look or behaviour of the victim.” I also think the following two pictures illustrate my point perfectly:
MYTH: Most sexual assaults occur between strangers.
FACT: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows: a neighbor, friend, acquaintance, co-worker, classmate, spouse, partner or ex-partner. Studies show that approximately 80% of women reporting sexual assaults knew their assailant.
BR KYLE: According to the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, “Most know their attackers. In 70% of sexual assaults the offender is a family member, friend, work or school colleague. Of the remainder, the offender is usually someone the person meets socially or dates.”
In my own personal experiences of sexual abuse, I also knew all three people who sexually assaulted me, I went to primary school with one of them and we were often put in the same grade (so I was sometimes forced to interact with him everyday for a long period of time), so did my parents.
My parents were friends with a family through a church group, lets call them the Papa Family, they had a daughter (two years older than me), one son who was a year older than I and one son that was two years younger than me. I shall refer to the two members of the Papa Family as Charlie (daughter) and Mike (son).
Charlie and Mike sexually assaulted me and cohered me into sexual activities repeatedly, over an extended period of time, on separate occasions (they didn’t sexually abuse me at the same time is what I’m trying to clarify).
The other person who sexually abused me was Adrian (this is his real name, he’s dead now, so I can say what I like), an older man who was in his fifties, he was also a member of the church group my parents attended. While Adrian was a high functioning alcoholic for most of his life, he had joined the church group in a bid to obtain the help and support he needed (I never once met a member of his immediate family).
Both my parents knew this man, my father and him were close friends due to a mutual interest in carpentry, my mother had taken care of Adrian when he had become very seriously ill with pneumonia, they had known Adrian for years before he molested me, there was no reason to suspect him and therefore my parents had no problems with me and my younger sister spending long hours alone with him.
MYTH: Sexual assaults only occur in dark alleys and isolated areas.
FACT: A sexual assault can happen anywhere and at any time. The majority of assaults occur in places ordinarily thought to be safe, such as homes, cars and offices.
BR KYLE: According to the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, “Most sexual assaults occur in the victim’s or perpetrator’s home, car or workplace. Sexual assault by a stranger accounts for less than 1% of sexual violence and an attack by a stranger in a dark place is even less common.”
In my personal experience, When Charlie (daughter) and Mike (son) sexually assaulted me or cohered me into sexual activities, these occurred in the Papa family’s residential home (usually via sleep overs but sometimes during the day, the key factor was witnesses not time). I believe the parents still live there, but I’m uncertain.
When Adrian molested me, we were at the Eltham Leisure Center, a swimming pool (with extra stuff like a spa and sauna), what I want to point out that it was a public space (with people constantly fluttering in and out) and it was in broad-daylight.
MYTH: Women falsely accuse men of sexual assault or “cry rape.”
FACT: Reported sexual assaults are true, with very few exceptions. FBI crime statistics indicate that only 2% of reported rapes are false. This is the same rate of false reporting as other major crime reports.
MYTH: Men don’t get sexually assaulted.
FACT: Men can be, and are, sexually assaulted. In Colorado one in seventeen men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Sexual assault of men is thought to be greatly under-reported. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, sexual orientation, or appearance.
BR KYLE: According to the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, “Yes, they do.”
MYTH: Most sexual assaults are interracial.
FACT: Almost all sexual assaults occur between members of the same race. Interracial rape is not common, but it does occur.
BR KYLE: In my own personal experience, all three of my abusers were white.
MYTH: People who commit sexual assaults are mentally ill, abnormal perverts.
FACT: Sexual offenders come from all educational, occupational, racial and cultural backgrounds. They are “ordinary” and “normal” individuals who sexually assault victims to assert power and control over them and inflict violence, humiliation and degradation.
BR KYLE: According to the Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, “Sex offenders look perfectly normal. They come from every class, profession, age and culture. They are not confined to any particular group or activity. They are usually ‘nice’ and social. This is how they establish trust and are then able to manipulate the person into a location where they can commit their act without interruption or witnesses.”
In my own experience, the sexual assault events took place when Charlie, Mike and I were all children. If you saw them in the street, you probably wouldn’t think their were capable of of molesting another child who was roughly the same age. Charlie (daughter) has hand a range of boyfriends and is now married and expecting a child/or has had a child (I don’t know, I try not to have anything to do with Charlie, Mike or their parents). Mike joined the army and I think he’s currently stationed in Darwin? (as I said, I don’t know, I try not to have contact with these people or their parents).
MYTH: Victims who do not fight back have not been sexually assaulted.
FACT: Anytime someone is forced to have sex against their will, they have been sexually assaulted, regardless of whether or not they fought back. There are many reasons why a victim might not physically fight their attacker including shock, fear, threats or the size and strength of the attacker.
BR KYLE: According to “Rape Prevention: Combating The Myths” by Dr Patricia Weiser Easteal, “Studies have shown that in the majority of rapes, the perpetrator does not use force which
results in physical injuries (Green 1987; Weekley 1986). The threat of force and death and the intimidation inherent in gender stratification are sufficient.
In reality, many forms of covert coercion and force may be used in rapeIt is the victim’s fear of the assault and its outcome that render her passive, not compliant, and without consent. Since many victims of rape are also survivors of incest and other sexual abuse they may ‘shut down’ their emotions and bodies at the onset of a rape; they learned this ‘survival’ behaviour as children (LundbergLove & Geffner 1989).
Other women have been socialised not to be aggressive or assertive, and their comparative lack of physical strength may contribute to less of a willingness to fight back. Thus, female passivity is a quite common response to male violence.”.
This is a gendered approach to the situation and that’s super problematic because anyone can be raped. I couldn’t find a lot of Australian information or statistics on this particular topic, if anyone finds stats and/or information regarding this and wants to send me a link, please do so via the comments and I’ll add it.
Now, in my own experiences, not one of my abusers threatened me with physical violence, they verbally and emotionally threatened me should I try to expose them (golden child vs social pariah dichotomy is very popular amongst sexual predators, especially Priests within the Catholic Church). Adrian also made threats towards molesting my sister (apparently this is also common tactic amongst sexual predators) in order to keep me compliant. They didn’t need to beat me, their words were enough.
MYTH: A rape survivor will be battered, bruised, and hysterical.
FACT: Many rape survivors are not visibly injured. The threat of violence alone is often sufficient cause for a woman to submit to the rapist, to protect herself from physical harm. People react to crisis in different ways. The reaction may range from composure to anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and suicidal feelings.
BR KYLE: According to “Rape Prevention: Combating The Myths” by Dr Patricia Weiser Easteal, “Unfortunately, this myth is still accepted by segments of the criminal justice system. The survivor who does not evidence injuries which she acquired through resistance becomes the incredible victim.
This image is a by-product of the previous myth which mandates physical force as an element of sexual assault. The reality is far different. Almost three-quarters of the victims in a Victorian sexual assault phone-in reported that ‘they felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness’ (Corbett 1993, p. 136).
In addition, women have often been advised not to resist in order to minimise the likelihood of severe injury or death. Rape is the only criminal act which has required resistance to substantiate that a crime occurred.”
Like the previous statement, this a very gendered approach to the situation and therefore super problematic. I couldn’t find a lot of Australian information or statistics on this particular topic, if anyone finds stats and/or information regarding this and wants to send me a link, please do so via the comments and I’ll add it.
MYTH: “If you wouldn’t have been drinking, you wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted.”
FACT: Alcohol is a weapon that some perpetrators use to control their victim and render them helpless. As part of their plan, an assailant may encourage the victim to use alcohol, or identify an individual who is already drunk. Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of many tools that perpetrators use.
BR KYLE: In my own personal experience, when I was sexually assaulted and molested, I was either a child or under the age of sixteen, which would have made it difficult for me to be either drunk or access alcohol and/or drugs, my view is that alcohol and/or drug usage is irrelevant. Anyone can experience rape or sexual assault, regardless of whether or not they have consumed alcohol or drugs. Now, as I was molested by a man over the age of eighteen, Adrian could have bought alcohol on my behalf, this didn’t happen because, as I stated previously, he didn’t need to. I was sober when all of these events occurred. However, I don’t want readers thinking I’m invalidating someone else’s sexual assault or rape experience, if alcohol or drugs were used to assault you or someone you know, that experience is just as valid as mine. There’s more than one narrative.
MYTH: Serial rapists are uncommon.
FACT: Most every perpetrator is a serial rapist, meaning that they choose to use coercion, violence, threats of force, etc., to assault people on a repeated basis.
MYTH: When women say no, they really mean yes.
FACT: Yes means yes! When someone says yes, s/he or they are explicitly giving consent. Silence does not equal consent. It is the responsibility of the person initiating or escalating sexual activity to gain consent at each and every level. If you are ever unclear about your partner’s wishes, ask for clarification. If your partner says no or seems unsure, respect that person and her/his wishes.
BR KYLE: I think these videos says everything that needs to be said on this particular topic:
Also, as a child, I didn’t understand what was going on, what sex was or what even consent was. This is why you need to teach children from an early age about personal boundaries and consent. Most of the time, it did not occur to me to say no, because I didn’t know what was going on in the first place. It was years before I realised the full implications of what had happened (it also took me years to remember again). Adults see sex and consent as interconnected things (or at least they are supposed to), this is not always the case with children.
MYTH: If a person is aroused when he/she or they are assaulted, then it is not really sexual assault.
FACT: Orgasm does not mean that someone “enjoyed” the sex, or that they wanted it. Orgasm can be a natural biological reaction that someone can’t control; it does not mean that forced or coerced sexual activity was consensual and often this is used to silence the survivor.
BR KYLE: According to “Rape Prevention: Combating The Myths” by Dr Patricia Weiser Easteal, “This myth is reinforced by certain stereotypes about male sexuality such as men’s alleged inability to control themselves if they are aroused. These are false images. Rape is not a sexual act. Rape is an act of violence which uses sex as a weapon. Rape is motivated by aggression and by the desire to exert power and humiliate.
Just as wife-battering had to be taken out of the privacy of the home and criminalised in order to effectuate any change, rape must be taken out of the sexual realm and placed where it rightfully belongs in the domain of violence against women. The latter view of rape as a sexual act is perhaps one of the most pervasive, enduring, and damaging myths; damaging since it contributes directly to another misunderstanding about the crime.”
I see where the author is coming from, but just as anyone can be raped, anyone can experience domestic violence. I think we need a more gender neutral approach here. However this is a big topic and I plan to tackle it separately in another blog post. I want it known that the “you came so you must have consented” myth is a complete load of bullshit, no statistics required.
MYTH: The reason that men get raped is because homosexual men are raping them, and lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals rape more or are more likely to be sex offenders than heterosexuals.
FACT: There are no statistics that support the idea that lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered individuals are more likely to commit sexual assault or be sex offenders than heterosexuals. In fact, sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual men.
BR KYLE: The fact that this myth even exists deeply offends me and I will be going more into it in another blog post, however I want it known that my high school friend group consisted of mostly straight people with one gay guy and a few bisexual women. None of them ever made me feel uncomfortable in a sexual way, none of them ever tried to force themselves on me or tried to cohere me into doing something sexual that I didn’t want to do. They were my friends and they respected me and I respected them.
MYTH: It is ok to pressure or talk someone into sexual activity.
FACT: No! This falls into the category of coercion. Coercion is a tactic used to intimidate, trick or force someone to have sex with him or her without physical force.
~Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia – Myths and Facts
~Rape Prevention: Combating The Myths by Dr Patricia Weiser Easteal
~Everyday Victim Blaming – Rape Culture: An Australian’s Perspective
~Everyday Victim Blaming: Blog Resources
~White Ribbon: Ten common myths and misconceptions
~Frothy Dragon and the Patriarchal Stone: #IBelieveHer Rape Myths 101: AKA Not My Nigel! *Trigger Warning*
~The Hunting Ground: Is there a rape culture on our campuses?
~5 Bizarre Realities of Being a Man Who Was Raped by a Woman
~Most Victims Are Men: 5 Realities Of Rape In The Military
~Raped On The Battlefield: What Male Veteran Survivors Know
~8 Ways the Legal System Screws Rape Victims (Like Me)
~Why I Kept My Rape By A Priest A Secret (And Can’t Anymore)