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  • Counseling Center » Rape Myths and Facts

Myth: Sexual Assault is caused by lust or uncontrollable sexual urges and the need for sexual gratification.

Fact: Sexual Assault is an act of physical violence and domination that is not motivated by sexual gratification.

Myth: Once a man gets sexually aroused, he can't just stop.

Fact: Men do not physically need to have sex after becoming sexually excited. Moreover, they are still able to control themselves after becoming aroused.

Myth: Women often lie about sexual assault or falsely accuse someone of sexual assault.

Fact: Statistical studies indicate false reports make up two percent or less of the reported cases of sexual assault. This figure is approximately the same for other types of crimes. Only one out of 10 rapes are actually reported.  Sexual Assault by someone the victim knows are the least likely to be reported.

Myth: Women provoke sexual assault by their appearance. Sexual attractiveness is a primary reason why a perpetrator selects a victim.

Fact: Perpetrators do not select their victims by their appearance. They select victims who are vulnerable and accessible. Victims of sexual assault range in age groups from infants to the elderly. Sexual attractiveness is not an issue.

Myth: Sexual assault is a topic that only concerns women, and men do not have to be concerned about sexual assault.

Fact: According to recent sexual assault crisis center statistics, men, both straight and gay, suffered 10 percent of the sexual assaults reported in the United States last year. In addition, men have wives, friends, sisters, mothers and daughters who may someday need assistance in coping with sexual assault. Sexual Assault is a concern for everyone.

Myth: If a woman really did not want to be sexually assaulted, she could fight off her attacker.

Fact: Even if the perpetrator is not carrying a weapon, the element of surprise, shock and fear or the threat of harm can overpower a victim.

 

Additional Facts about Sexual Assault

Women and girls are the vast majority of victims: nearly 1 in 5 women – or nearly 22 million – have been raped in their lifetimes.*

Men and boys, however, are also at risk: 1 in 71 men – or almost 1.6 million – have been sexually assaulted during their lives.*

Young people are especially at risk:  The majority of sexual assault victims are young between the ages of 16 and 24.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 80% of female victims were sexually assaulted before they turned 25.*  College students are particularly vulnerable, with 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted while in college.***

Other populations are also at higher risk of being sexually assaulted, including people with disabilities and the LGBT community.*

Most victims know their assailants: 51% of female victims were sexually assaulted by a current or former intimate partner, and 41% were sexually assaulted by an acquaintance.  Assault by strangers , in contrast, accounts for only 14% of the total.  Of men and boys, 52% report being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance and 15% by a stranger.*

The vast majority (nearly 98%) of perpetrators are male. 98% of female and 93% of sexual assault victims report that their assailants were male.*

The Impacts of Sexual Assault.  Sexual assault victims often suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health problems that can follow them for life – including depression, anxiety, chronic pain, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  They are also more likely than non-victims to develop alcohol and substance abuse problems and attempt or consider suicide.**

Victims may be further traumatized by social media – through which the details of an assault can “go viral.”  While this is an un-researched issue, a number of high profile sexual assault cases have drawn attention to this relatively new and disturbing dynamic.** 

Campus Sexual Assault: A Particular Problem:

  • As noted, 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted while in college.***
  • Reporting rates for campus sexual assault are also very low: on average only 12% of student victims report the assault to law enforcement.***
  • The dynamics of college life appear to fuel the problem.  Most college victims are assaulted by someone they know; parties are often the site of these crimes, and many victims are abused while they’re drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out, or otherwise incapacitated.  This is called “incapacitated assault.”
  • Perpetrators often prey on incapacitated women, and sometimes surreptitiously provide their victims with drugs or alcohol.  Perpetrators who drink prior to an assault are more likely to believe that a woman’s drinking itself signals that she is interested in sex. ***

 

References

*Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J. Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011) The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In calculating the prevalence of rape, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counts completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.  Like other researchers, the CDC considers attempted forced penetration to fall within the definition of “rape” because that crime can be just as traumatizing for victims.  As the CDC further explains, the most common form of rape victimization experienced by women was completed forced penetration: 12.3% of women in the United States were victims of completed forced penetration; 8% were victims of alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration, and 5.2% were victims of attempted forced penetration.  These are lifetime estimates and a victim might have experienced multiple forms of these subtypes of rape in her lifetime.

**The White House Council on Women and Girls (2014). Rape and sexual assault: A renewed call to action.  Office of the Vice President.

***Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C.H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S., & Martin, S. L. (2007).  The Campus Sexual Assault (CSA) Study (221153). Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. [Hereafter cited as CSA (2007)].; Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C. H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S., & Martin, S. L. (2009) College Women’s Experiences with Physically Forced, Alcohol- or Other Drug-Enabled, and Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Before and Since Entering College.  Journal of American College Health, 57(6), 639-647.

****Kilpatric, D.G., Resnick, H.S., Ruggiero, K.J., Conoscenti, L.M., & McCauley, J. (2007). Drug facilitated, incapacitated, and forcible rape: A national study (NCJ 219181). Charleston, SC: Medical University of South Carolina, National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center.