5 Common Myths About Rape
I feel perplexed every time I witness women take the side of a rapist and vehemently blame the victim. “Why do they do that?” – I ask myself, – “Why don’t they feel empathy to fellow women? Don’t they understand that it could happen to them, too?” I came to a conclusion that women are products of our society that feeds us false stereotypes about rape and places the whole responsibility of the crime on the victim.
Before I proceed to address the most common rape myths, let’s talk about consent which is a crucial ingredient of any sexual activity between two or more people. Consent is an unambiguous and voluntary agreement to have sex. Consent is expressed through mutually understandable words and actions. Consent is always given. Consent can not be assumed or taken by force or coercion. Consent can be withdrawn at any point of time. Consent isn’t valid when given by an incapacitated person. Hence, when people want to engage in a sexual activity, they have to ask for explicit permission. Without it, sex can’t be consensual. Without it, sex turns into rape.
“Rapists sincerely believe that they did nothing wrong due to their automatic, exaggerated and irrational thought patterns.”
It’s important to note that most rapists are sane people who do not suffer from any extreme psychotic disorders. However, almost all of them have cognitive distortions that were formed early in life and that justify sexual assault. Rapists sincerely believe that they did nothing wrong due to their automatic, exaggerated and irrational thought patterns. Cognitive distortions can be corrected through therapy and education. We, women, can certainly play an important role in this process as mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends but first, we have to battle common rape myths among us.
Myth 1: Rape happens only to “bad” women.
All of us heard this one before. Rape doesn’t happen to “good” girls who do not drink, do not wear sexy clothes, do not flirt with strangers, do not go out clubbing, do not walk alone late at night, etc. The list can go on and on. The reality is that any woman can be a victim of sexual violence. A rapist makes a choice to seize an opportunity and commit a sexual assault. Victim’s former actions, behavior or wardrobe choices do not equal an agreement to have sex. Even if two people started to make out and engage in sexual activity but the woman suddenly changed her mind and didn’t want to proceed further, it’s time to stop. Otherwise, whatever happens, after would be considered rape. If a woman says “No!” at any point in time, it’s important to take it as a “No,” instead of a flirtatious “Yes.”
“It’s common for rape survivors to experience tonic immobility during an assault when they are unable to physically move or speak.”
Myth 2: Rape occurs outside, at night, and is committed by a stranger.
A friend of mine told me when we discussed a recent famous rape case in Russia: “I’d believe her if she was raped somewhere in the bushes by a stranger but the sex happened at the party and she was flirting with a guy the whole night. Obviously, she wanted it.” Just because the description doesn’t fit our preconceived notions about rape, it does not mean it didn’t happen. Statistics show that majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Plus, more than 60% of rapes occur at or near the home of the victim, friend, relative, or acquaintance.
Myth 3: There is a right way to respond to rape.
Another common misconception is that if the victim didn’t fight back during the whole act, it automatically means she was not raped. Rape is a life-threatening situation, and people react differently when their lives are in danger. It’s common for rape survivors to experience tonic immobility during an assault when they are unable to physically move or speak. Rapists often resort to the use of weapons or physical violence to subdue their victims into submission, which does not equal willing cooperation.
“The majority of rape survivors do not report the crime to police.”
Myth 4: There is a right way to behave after rape.
If a rape victim does not act depressed, hysterical or crying, it is an evidence that she was not raped. People process and react to trauma differently. Some may put up the “strong face” on and pretend that nothing happened. Others will go out and party trying to forget. And there are people who will lock themselves up at home and refuse to see anyone. No matter how a woman reacts after rape does not indicate whether it happened to her or not.
Myth 5: Many women report rape when they are ashamed of having sex or want to revenge and blackmail someone.
It’s true that false rape reports happen but they aren’t common as people think. In the United States, it falls under the same percentage as other felonies. Only 2-8% of sexual assaults are falsely reported. At the same time, the majority of rape survivors do not report the crime to police due to psychological distress, societal barriers, and general distrust of law enforcement and legal system.
Let’s not forget that both men and women perpetrate rape. It can happen to anyone, regardless of sexual identification, gender, age, physical attractiveness, occupation, and behavior. To stop sexual violence, we must openly talk about it and stay away from blind victim blaming.