Myth Busting

Myths about sexual harassment and violence only distorted the facts. Here is a list of the most common myths countered by the cold hard facts.

Myth: Sexual assault can’t happen to me or anyone I know. Fact: One in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime and one in six men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. On average 39% of Canadian adult women reported having had at least one experience of sexual assault since the age of 16 and only 1 in 3 Canadians understand what sexual consent really means. Your likely hood of experiencing sexual assault or knowing someone who has is statistically significant. This is because sexual assault can and does happen to anyone. People of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are victims of sexual assault. Research has found that young womxn, Aboriginal womxn and womxn with disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing sexual assault. It is impotent to know that sexual assault victimization rates are five times higher for women under the age of 35.

Myth: Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers. Fact: Not true. The perpetrator is known to the victim in 82% of sexual assaults. This perpetrator is commonly known to the victim, including acquaintances, dating partners, family member, friend, ex-lover, coach, and common-law or married partners. 

Myth: Sexual assault is most likely to happen outside in dark, dangerous places. Fact: The majority of sexual assaults happen in private spaces like a residence or private home.

Myth: If a womxn doesn’t report to the police, it wasn’t sexual assault. Fact: Just because a victim doesn’t report the assault doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Fewer than one in ten victims report the crime to the police.

Myth: It’s not a big deal to have sex with a womxn while she is drunk, stoned or passed out. Fact: If a womxn is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, she cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.

Myth: If a womxn didn’t scream or fight back, it probably wasn’t sexual assault. Fact: When a womxn is sexually assaulted, she may become paralyzed with fear and be unable to fight back. She may be fearful that if she struggles, the perpetrator will become more violent. If she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, she may be incapacitated or unable to resist.

Myth: If a womxn isn’t crying or visibly upset, it probably wasn’t a serious sexual assault. Fact: Every womxn responds to the trauma of sexual assault differently. She may cry or she may be calm. She may be silent or very angry. Her behaviour is not an indicator of her experience. It is important not to judge a womxn by how she responds to the assault.

Myth: If a womxn does not have obvious physical injuries, like cuts or bruises, she probably was not sexually assaulted. Fact: Lack of physical injury does not mean that a womxn wasn’t sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or other coercive actions that do not leave physical marks. She may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated.

Myth: If it really happened, the womxn would be able to easily recount all the facts in the proper order. Fact: Shock, fear, embarrassment and distress can all impair memory. Many survivors attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a way of coping with trauma. Memory loss is common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved.

Myth: Womxn lie and make up stories about being sexually assaulted. Fact: Only 2-8% of rape claims are false reports. This is very low and consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada.

Myth: It wasn’t rape, so it wasn’t sexual violence. Fact: Any unwanted sexual contact is considered to be sexual violence. A survivor can be severely affected by all forms of sexual violence, including unwanted fondling, rubbing, kissing, or other sexual acts. Many forms of sexual violence involve no physical contact, such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings. All of these acts are serious and can be damaging.

Myth: Womxn with disabilities don’t get sexually assaulted. Fact: Not true. Womxn with disabilities are at a high risk of experiencing sexual violence or assault. On average over 80% of women with disabilities will be sexually abused in their lifetime. Those who live with activity limitations are over two times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those who are able-bodied.

Myth: Husbands cannot sexually assault their wives. Fact: Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship.