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Sexual Violence Myths vs Facts


Many myths surround the issue of violence against women, and the perpetration of these myths — especially those that excuse the perpetrator and blame the victim — reinforces behavior which contributes to sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Separating the myths from the facts is an important first step in acknowledging the problem and working to eliminate it.

Myth: Sexual assault is an expression of passion and lust.
Fact: Sexual assault is a crime that uses power and control to dominate, humiliate and punish.

Myth: Rape is an impulsive, uncontrollable act of sexual gratification.
Fact: Most rapes are planned and motivated by aggression, dominance and hatred, not sex.

Myth: If a woman is being stalked, and she just ignores the unwanted behavior, it will go away.
Fact: This is not necessarily the case. It is important to stop the stalker as soon as possible. The sooner action is taken, be it a police caution, warning or arrest, the greater the chance of stopping the stalking.

Myth: College students do not have to worry about becoming victims of dating or domestic violence.
Fact: Dating and domestic abuse is a problem on college campuses and often an indication of abuse in subsequent relationships and marriages.

Myth: Violent relationships only happen in marriages.
Fact: An abusive or violent relationship can happen to anyone in an intimate relationship regardless of marital status. Domestic and relationship violence can begin when adolescents start dating. Relationship violence among teenagers exists and can include physical, sexual and emotional abuse. And, not all domestic partners can be or are married.

Myth: Jealousy is a sign of love.
Fact: When a person continually accuses their partner of flirting or having an affair, and is suspicious of everyone in their partner's life, it is possessing and controlling behavior, not love.

Myth: When their partner hits someone, they must have provoked the behavior in some way.
Fact: No one deserves to be hit. Whether or not there may have seemed to be provocation, violence is always wrong. It never solves problems, and it often silences the victim.

Myth: People in abusive relationships stay because they enjoy being abused.
Fact: People who are abused by their dating or domestic partner do not stay in the relationship because they like being bullied. Most victims want to improve their relationship rather than end it. Violence is often cyclical in abusive relationships. Consequently an apology and promise to end the behavior will often follow an episode of abuse which contributes to the attitude that the behavior may change. Unfortunately, without the will to change and the appropriate psychological assistance the abuse will not end. The victim may stay for practical or emotional reasons including love, fear of reprisal such as more injury or ultimately death, social isolation or shame. 

Myth: "Name calling" doesn't hurt anyone.
Fact: Emotional abuse is often considered harmless "name calling". But name calling hurts; that's why people do it. Emotional abuse lowers the victim's self-esteem, sometimes permanently. For many victims it is the most damaging aspect of abusive relationships.

Myth: I can tell if someone is going to be a "hitter" just by looking at the person.
Fact: Abusers come in all sizes and shapes. They are not the stereotypical muscle-bound men portrayed in the media. They are women and men; they are in the classroom, in your neighborhood, or a friend of a friend.

Myth: Dating or domestic violence will never happen to you.
Fact: Dating violence can happen to you. It is not limited to a particular social class, sexual orientation, gender or any single ethnic or racial group. Some people are victimized on their first date while others are assaulted after dating a long time.

Myth: A relationship is not abusive if there is no physical abuse.
Fact: Perpetrators of violence maintain control over the victim by using physical or sexual violence or by using emotional violence or the threat of physical or sexual violence. In some relationships, the threat of violence is enough to keep the abuser in control. The threat of violence and emotional violence can be just as hurtful or painful as physical violence.

Myth: Rapists are strangers who hide in dark alleys waiting to attack women late at night.
Fact: Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Rape can occur at any hour of the day, and half of all rapes occur in the victim’s residence.

Myth: Battered women can always leave — and the situation can’t be that bad, or they would.
Fact: It may be difficult for a woman to leave her partner. Women stay in violent relationships for both emotional and practical reasons, including love, economic dependence, fear of reprisal, social isolation, and shame.

Myth: Women are to blame for putting themselves into situations that lead to sexual assault: staying out late, drinking, using drugs, going out alone, talking to strangers.
Fact: Most victims of sexual assault are attacked in places they thought were safe by someone they thought they could trust.

Myth: Cyberstalkers are not dangerous.
Fact: If a cyberstalker takes the harassment offline, a woman may begin to receive harassing snail mail or phone calls. In addition, the stalker may know where she lives.

Myth: Sexual harassment is a part of life. Such behavior is usually just harmless flirtation or a way to compliment a woman.
Fact: Sexual harassment is conduct that makes women (and men) feel uncomfortable, humiliated, distressed, or fearful. This behavior is both unacceptable and illegal.

Adapted from the CALCASA Campus Violence Prevention Resource Guide