Myths about Sexual Assault
Myth: Strangers most often commit sexual assault.
Fact: On the contrary, sexual assault is most often committed by someone known to the survivor, such as a family member or relative, friend of the family, trusted neighbour, partner, or roommate – not by strangers.
Myth: People cannot be assaulted by their husbands/wives or boyfriends/girlfriends.
Fact: Under the law, people have the right to say “no” to any form of sex, even in a marriage or dating relationship.
Myth: Survivors of sexual assault “asked for it” by the way they dress or act.
Fact: The idea that survivors “asked for it” is often used by offenders to rationalize their behaviour. It also blames the survivor for the crime, not the offender. Survivors of sexual assault report a wide range of dress and actions at the time of the assault. Any person of any age and physical type, in almost any situation, can be sexually assaulted. If a person is sexually assaulted, it is NOT his/her fault.
Myth: People who commit sexual assault are either mentally ill or sexually starved.
Fact: Sexual assault is about asserting power and control over the victim. Most perpetrators are not mentally ill or sexually starved.
Myth: People of certain races and backgrounds are more likely to commit sexual assault.
Fact: Offenders come from every economic, ethnic, racial, age, and social group. Beliefs that people of colour or working class people are more likely to commit sexual assault are a stereotype rooted in racism and classism. Anyone can commit sexual assault.
Myth: It is only sexual assault if physical violence or weapons are used.
Fact: The Criminal Code definition of sexual assault includes a number of acts ranging from unwanted sexual touching, to sexual violence resulting in wounding, maiming, or endangering the life of the survivor. Many sexual assaults involve verbal pressure, intimidation, intoxication (such as administering drugs without the victim’s consent), and/or threats during an assault.
Myth: Unless physically harmed, a sexual assault survivor will not suffer any long-term effects.
Fact: Any sexual assault can have serious effects on a person’s long-term health and well-being. Survivors often deal with feelings of anger, shame, and fear for many years after the assault. Survivors often also become more cautious and less trusting, affecting their personal relationships.
Myths about Male Sexual Assault1
Myth: Sexual assault of males is a rare occurrence.
Fact: A recent study in Canada (Sexual Offenses Against Children) reports that an estimated one in three boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Also, in one study involving college men ages 19-24, 30% admitted to being victims of sexual assault.2 Both males and females are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Myth: Males are less traumatized by sexual violence or do not suffer to the same extent female survivors do.
Fact: After sexual assault or sexual abuse, male survivors are just as likely as female survivors to experience effects from the experience. Just like female survivors, male survivors may experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, suicidal ideations, flashbacks, and difficulty trusting others. Survivors of sexual assault all have very personal reactions to their experiences, but they are all impacted in some way.
Myth: Males are only assaulted and abused by gay men.
Fact: The great majority of perpetrators against men and boys are heterosexual men. The motivation for sexual violence is to gain a sense of control and power over another person, not to achieve sexual satisfaction. Females also commit sexual assault against males.
Myth: Males can protect themselves from being sexually assaulted.
Fact: Males and females alike are vulnerable to sexual assault. Because men are often physically stronger than women, some people mistakenly believe that men should be able to defend themselves. Yet, there are many ways that perpetrators commit sexual assault, and most often, coercion is used. Any person of any size or physical strength can be coerced.
Myth: You can’t sexually assault a man because men always want and are ready for sex.
Fact: Sexual assault is not sex. If a man wants sex, he wants to choose who it is with and what it consists of. Sexual assault is an act of violence that takes away any choice or control the person has. Our society’s expectation that men always want sex can be very damaging to male victims who therefore feel that they “should have wanted” this experience and thus cannot be upset about it.
Myth: Males assaulted by another male are, or become, gay as a result of the sexual assault.
Fact: A person’s sexual orientation does not change as a result of a sexual assault experience. Some victims do feel confused about their sexual orientation after a sexual assault or sexual abuse, particularly if they experienced physical arousal during the assault. For example, if a straight man is sexually assaulted by another men and has an erection during the assault, he may worry that this must mean that he is gay or that he wanted the sexual assault to happen. Yet, it is very common to experience arousal during a sexual assault. This arousal can be a fear response, or it can be because a healthy body usually physically responds to sexual touch, even if the touch is not wanted.
Myth: Men who had an erection while being sexually assaulted enjoyed what happened to them.
Fact: Our bodies are programmed to respond to touch in a certain way. Just as women who are sexually assaulted may lubricate or orgasm, men who are sexually assaulted may have an erection and ejaculate. This does not mean they enjoyed the touch. Instead, it means they have healthy, normal bodies that are responding in a healthy, normal way.
1University of Alberta Sexual Assault Centre. “The Male Experience of Sexual Violence.” Available at: http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/SAC/pdfs/The%20Male%20Experience%20of%20Sexual%20Violence%202009.pdf 2Volunteer Training Manual, Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton
2Volunteer Training Manual, Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton