Here are five common myths and the facts behind them:
1. Most sexual assaults are committed by a stranger.
The narrative of a woman being sexually assaulted while walking down a dark alleyway may still play out on many TV screens. However this is a myth, in the real world, rape and serious sexual assault is far more likely to occur in the home and at the hands of someone familiar. In England, Wales, and Australia, around one in five women have experienced sexual violence at least once during their lifetime. The US’s national sexual violence survey similarly estimated that one in five women, along with one in 71 men, have been raped. In the UK, for example, a separate report found that the perpetrator was a stranger in only 10% of rape and serious sexual assaults, while in 56% of cases it was the victim’s partner, and for the remaining 33% it was a friend, acquaintance, or other family member.
2. A ‘real’ sexual assault survivor always reports immediately
According to UK Home Office data, 46% of recorded rapes were reported on the day they took place, while 14% of people took more than six months to report that they’d been assaulted. If the victim was a child, they were even more likely to delay coming forward. Just 28% of those aged under 16 reported the offense on the day it happened, while a third waited for longer than six months. Therefore, victims of sexual assault or rape are not always likely to report their assaults
3. If assaults were reported immediately, it would be relatively easy to investigate and press charges
It is true that survivors of rapes and sexual assaults who come forward quickly are more likely to undergo a forensic medical examination. The forensic exam can be used to find DNA of the abuser from the victim. Examiners also document injuries such as cuts, grazes or bruising, which could support allegations of force. However, undergoing a physical examination doesn’t necessarily mean an offender will be caught and convicted, or even that the case will be investigated. As demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that sit untested in police departments and forensic storage facilities across the US. Plus, physical evidence tends to be less helpful if the person you’re accusing is a partner or close acquaintance.
4. If you didn’t ‘really’ want it, you’d fight back
People vary in their response to rape and sexual assault. In her 2008 book, Serial Survivors, University of Wellington criminologist, Jan Jordan, describes the very different techniques employed by 15 women who were sexually assaulted by the same man. Some of the women tried talking to him while others fought back. Still, others tried to mentally remove themselves from the situation. A process psychologists refer to as ‘dissociation’.
5. Traumatic experiences scramble your memories and maybe you’ve misremembered what happened
Many people who have been raped or sexually assaulted often claim to have vivid memories of certain images, sounds and smells associated with the attack – even if happened decades earlier. Yet when asked to recall exactly what time of day it was, or who and what was where at any given time. These are the kinds of details police and prosecutors often focus on to establish the facts of a crime. They may struggle or contradict themselves, undermining their testimony.
All of these points show that there are many myths that go to sexual assault that just aren’t true. Sexual harassment incidents are not myths. If you or anyone you know has ever been sexually harassed at work, then please call us so we can go get some justice for you.