Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week runs from 1st - 7th February every year.  This year we are raising awareness and dispelling some of the myths around rape and sexual violence

What are rape myths?

There are many common myths about rape, sexual abuse and sexual violence which can make it difficult for victims to talk to anyone or seek support.

Victims can blame themselves,  think others will blame them or that they won’t be believed. Myths can also affect how victims are treated by family and friends, services, and organisations.

It's important to challenge these myths. 

Myths about rape

Myth: Rape happens as a result of overwhelming sexual desire.

Fact: Rapists rape as part of their need for power, dominance and control.

Myth: Most rapes are committed by strangers in dark alleys.

Fact: In reality, most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows - friend, family member, partner or other individuals known to the victim. People are raped in their homes, their workplaces and other settings where they previously felt safe

Myth: Only young, 'attractive' women and girls are raped.

Fact: People of all ages and appearances, and of all classes, cultures, abilities, genders, sexualities, races and religions, are raped. Rape is an act of violence and control, and has nothing to do with the perceived 'attractiveness' of a victim

Myth: Women who are raped often deserve it - particularly if they entered a man's home or got in his car.

Fact: Nobody deserves to be raped, ever. Entering someone’s home or car is not consenting to sex. Sex without consent is rape.

Myth: If someone gets really drunk, it’s their own fault if they end up getting raped. They should have kept themselves safe.

Fact: Just because a person is drunk or has taken drugs does not automatically mean that they must be looking for, or willing to have, sex. People have the right to drink alcohol without getting assaulted. Having sex with someone who is very drunk, drugged or unconscious is rape – and it is always the rapist’s fault. 

Myth: Women wearing revealing clothing are inviting rape.

Fact: It doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing. Her clothing or behaviour does not mean she is consenting to sex.  

Myth: Only gay men rape men.

Fact: Men who rape other men do so as an expression of power or control. They might be heterosexual and in a relationship with a woman.  A man’s sexuality does not cause him to rape.

Myth: Men who are sexually assaulted or raped by a man must be gay.

Fact: Rape and sexual assault are about violence and control, not desire. Being the target of rape has nothing to do with a man’s sexuality.

Myth: Sexual abuse doesn’t happen in same-sex relationships.

Fact: People in same-sex relationships are just as likely to experience sexual abuse and rape as straight people. Research shows that transgender individuals may be at even higher risk of abuse from their partner.  LGBT people can find it difficult to seek support because of additional stereotypes and prejudice they face.

Myth: Women don’t commit sexual offences.

Fact: The majority of sexual assaults and rapes are committed by men against women and children. However, women do perpetrate sexual violence against other women, men and children. Often people who've been sexually assaulted or abused by a woman worry they won't be believed or their experiences won't be considered 'as bad'. This can make it difficult for these survivors to access services or justice.

Myth: When it comes to sex, men have a point of no return. 

Fact:  Men can control their urges to have sex just as women can. No-one needs to rape someone for sexual satisfaction. Rape is an act of violence and control. 

Myth: People of certain races and backgrounds are more likely to commit sexual violence.

Fact: There is no typical rapist. People who commit sexual violence come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age and social group.

Myth: When it comes to sex, women and girls give out mixed signals. They sometimes 'play hard to get' and say 'no' when they really mean 'yes'.

Fact: Everyone has the legal right to say 'no' to sex and to change their mind at any point of sexual contact. If the other person doesn't stop, they are committing sexual assault or rape. When it comes to sex, we must check in with our partners, respect their wishes, and believe what they tell us about what they do and don't want.

Myth: If someone didn’t scream or try to fight their attacker off, then it wasn’t rape.

Fact: There are many reasons why someone might not scream or struggle. In fact, many people find that they cannot move or speak at all – this is a very common reaction. Some rapists also use manipulation or threats to intimidate or control the other person. No matter whether or not someone 'fights back', if they didn’t freely consent to sex then it is rape.

Myth: The victim had previously had sex with them so must have consented.

Fact: Everyone has the right to say 'no' to any type of sexual activity at any time.  A person who has freely chosen to have sexual activity with another person in the past does not, as a result, give general consent to sexual intercourse with that person on any other occasion.

Myth: If you are in a relationship with someone, it’s always OK to have sex with them.

Fact: Everyone has the right to say 'no' to any type of sexual activity at any time – including with their partner. Consent must be given and received freely every time. Rape and sexual violence in a relationship is illegal.

Myth: It didn’t go to court, so the person must’ve been lying.

Fact: The evidence shows that false allegations of rape are no more common than false allegations of any other crime. Cases may not proceed to court because of high evidential requirements, but this does not mean that the survivor was lying.

If you need support following a rape, sexual violence or abuse, please contact us by phone, Live Chat or make an online referral