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



Dating and Domestic Violence

Dating and domestic violence, also referred to as relationship or intimate partner violence, is the use of power by one person to control another within an intimate relationship.  Signs of an abusive relationship include jealousy, possessiveness, isolating and controlling behavior, threats and intimidations, put-downs and name-calling, yelling, breaking things, physical and sexual assault, and financial coercion or control.  The rate of dating/domestic violence among undergraduate and graduate students is about the same rate as in the general population.  Abuse occurs in same-gender relationships as often as in relationships between people of different genders.

In a healthy relationship your partner respects you and your individuality.

  • You are both open and honest.
  • Your partner supports you and your choices even when they disagree with you.
  • Both of you have equal say and respected boundaries.
  • Your partner understands that you need to study or hang out with friends or family.
  • You can communicate your feelings without being afraid of negative consequences.
  • Both of you feel safe being open and honest.
  • Click here to see chart of Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationship Characteristics

Hurting someone is never a sign of love!!! When a relationship is violent or abusive, the people involved need to either seek professional help to make the relationship work without abuse/violence or get out of it. You don’t have to settle for an abusive relationship, and you don’t have to continue to behave in abusive ways. Both of you deserve better.

Type of Abuse/Violence

What It Means

How It Works

Early Warning Signs

Physical Abuse

  • Any intentional unwanted contact with the other person’s body.
  • Physical abuse does not have to leave a mark or a bruise.
  • Slapping; Hitting
  • Scratching; Pinching
  • Choking; Strangling
  • Pushing; Shoving
  • Grabbing
  • Kicking
  • Pinching
  • Hair pulling
  • Biting
  • Throwing objects at a person
  • Using weapons
  • Explosive temper
  • Going into a rage when disappointed or frustrated
  • History of violence
  • Severe mood swings
  • Teasing, tripping, or pushing
  • Threatening to injure
  • Intimidating physical behavior (getting in your face)

Verbal, Psychological and Emotional Abuse

  • Saying or doing something to the other person that causes the person to be afraid, have lower self-esteem, or cause psychological or emotional distress
  • Manipulating or controlling the person’s feelings or  behaviors.
  • Behavior that causes harm with words or actions
  • Insults, Put-downs, Name-calling
  • Embarrassing or humiliating you in front of your friends or family
  • Threats, intimidation
  • Telling the person what to do (how to dress, act, behave)
  • Telling a person’s secrets; spreading rumors
  • Jealousy, possessiveness
  • Isolating a person from friends, family
  • Destroying gifts, clothing, letters
  • Damaging a car, home, or other prized possessions
  • Hurting or threatening to hurt pets or  loved ones
  • Following, tracking, calling often to see where you are
  • Having to be with you all the time
  • Extreme jealousy or possessiveness
  • Teasing that includes insults
  • Pouting when you spend time with your friends
  • Threatening to leave you in an unsafe location
  • Trying to control what you do
  • Not letting you hang out with your friends
  • Calling or texting you frequently to find out where you are, who you're with, and what you're doing

Sexual Abuse

  • Any sexual behavior that is unwanted or interferes with the other person’s right to say “no” to sexual advances.
  • Any sexual behaviors that make a person feel uncomfortable
  • Any sexual behavior that is manipulative or coercive
  • Unwanted kissing to touching
  • Unwanted rough or violent sexual activity
  • Forcing or manipulating someone to go further sexually than he or she wants to
  • Insisting (physically or verbally) that you have sex, even when you have said no
  • Using coercion, guilt and manipulation to have sex
  • Taking advantage of you while you are intoxicated (drink or high) and not able to say no
  • Forced sex
  • Not using or not letting you use birth control for pregnancy and STD protection (condoms, birth control pills)
  • Using emotional blackmail to talk you into having sex (“If you loved me, you would...”)
  • “Everyone else is doing it, come on, what’s wrong with you?”
  • “I won’t use condoms” (forcing you not to use them)

Abuse of Male Privilege:
 “It’s a Guy Thing”

  • Behavior that assumes that boys have more power than girls and that boys have special privileges in relationships with girls
  • The guy makes all decisions for the couple
  • The guy expects his girlfriend to wait on and pamper him
  • The guy treats his girlfriend as if she is property he owns
  • Expecting you to be available to them at all times; while they may only be available to you when they feel like it
  • Acting overly macho with friend

Common feelings people experience when in abusive and/or unhealthy relationships can include:

  • Low Self-Esteem; Lack of Self-Confidence
  • Feeling angry, sad, lonely, depressed or confused
  • Feeling helpless to stop the abuse
  • Feeling threatened or humiliated
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Academic or Work Difficulties
  • Lack of Motivation
  • Fear
  • Trouble with Trust
  • Difficulty in Relationships
  • Problems with Sex
  • Guilt and Self-Blame; Self-Doubt
  • Feelings of Isolation
  • Feeling anxious
  • Not knowing what might happen next
  • Feeling like you can't talk to family and friends
  • Being afraid of getting hurt more seriously
  • Feeling protective of your boyfriend/girlfriend

 Remember, you're not alone

  • 43% of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
  • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.
  • 52% of college women report knowing a friend who has experienced violent and abusive dating behaviors including physical, sexual, tech, verbal or controlling abuse.
  • More than half (57%) of college students who report experiencing dating violence and abuse said it occurred in college.
  • 58% of college students say they don’t know what to do to help someone who is a victim of dating abuse.
  • 38% of college students say they don’t know how to get help for themselves if they were a victim of dating abuse.
  • More than half of all college students (57%) say it is difficult to identify dating abuse.
  • Source: and 2011 College Dating Violence & Abuse Poll

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, get help immediately. Don't keep your concerns to yourself. Talk to someone you trust like a parent, teacher, counselor or medical professional.  On campus you can contact the SMU Student Health & Counseling Center for confidential counseling.



Stalking is a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention, harassment, contact, or any other conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear, and/or threaten her or his safety, mental health, or physical health. These collection of behaviors, at one time in the recent past, tended to be excused or minimized by society. Now, it is generally understood that this pattern of behaviors causes anxiety and impacts the survivor’s ability to pursue his/her education and live a whole and healthy life.  More than half of all stalking survivors are between 18 and 29 years old and most stalkers are an acquaintance, such as a former dating partner.

 Stalking behaviors or activities may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Non-consensual communication, including face-to-face communication, telephone calls, voice messages, e-mails, text messages, written letters, gifts, or any other communications that are undesired and place another person in fear.
  • Use of online, electronic, or digital technologies, including:
    • Posting of pictures or information in chat rooms or on Web sites
    • Sending unwanted/unsolicited email or talk requests
    • Posting private or public messages on internet sites, social networking sites, and/or school bulletin boards
    • Installing spyware on a victim’s computer
    • Using Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to monitor a victim
  • Pursuing, following, waiting, or showing up uninvited at or near a residence, workplace, classroom, or other places frequented by the victim
  • Surveillance or other types of observation including staring, “peeping”
  • Trespassing
  • Vandalism
  • Non-consensual touching
  • Direct verbal or physical threats
  • Gathering information about an individual from friends, family, and/or co-workers
  • Threats to harm self or others
  • Defamation – lying to others about the victim


Internet Resources:

Sexual Assault

Dating and Domestic Violence