Myths and Facts About Sexual Assault

Myth: Sexual assault is a crime of passion, not violence.
Fact: All sexual assaults are violent, involving emotional, physical and sexual violation. The purpose of the assault is to intimidate, dominate and control the victim (Klinic, 2001)

Myth: “Nice” girls are never sexually assaulted.
Fact: Any female can be the victim of sexual assault. Victims range in age from a few months old to women in their nineties. They represent every class, race, religion, neighbourhood, sexuality, physical/personality type, and lifestyle. One in four women will be sexually assaulted in her life. (Brickman & Briere, 1984) 38% of women surveyed were fourteen to seventeen years old at the time of their sexual assault (Warshaw, 1988).

Myth: Men cannot be sexually assaulted.
Fact: One out of three males is sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen (Klinic, 2001). Men who are sexually assaulted are not necessarily homosexual, and being assaulted by another man does not make them homosexual. Men who assault other men are not generally homosexual either – they are often heterosexual men looking to dominate and control others.

Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers on the street late at night.
Fact: 75% of sexual assaults occur in a home or car, 49% in broad daylight. In 75-85% of assaults, the assailant is someone the victim knows and trusts (Warshaw, 1988).

Myth: It is easy to spot a potential rapist – most are obviously mentally disturbed.
Fact: Less than 5% of assailants have a diagnosed mental disorder. The majority of assailants appear normal, self-confident, and likeable. Half are married or in common-law relationships (Klinic, 2001). One out of twelve men surveyed had committed acts that met the definition of rape or attempted rape. 84% of the men who committed acts that met the definition of rape stated that it definitely was not rape. 30% of men questioned stated they would commit rape if there was no chance they would get caught. This figure rose to 50% when the word “rape” was changed to “force a woman into having sex” (Warshaw, 1988)

Myth: Sexual assault is a rare occurrence and is almost always reported.
Fact: Sexual assault is committed more frequently and reported less often than any other violent crime. Only 5-10% of sexual assaults are reported to police (Warshaw, 1988).

Myth: A woman who has been sexually assaulted will “get over it”.
Fact: Studies indicate that sexual assault has traumatic, long-lasting and debilitating effects upon victims. One in five rape victims attempt suicide whereas the rate is one in fifty in a non-victimized population (Stark, 1985) The emotional trauma resulting from rape is not always immediate but often results in long-term depression, fear and sexual disfunction (Canadian Family Physician, 1985).