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Myths and Facts about Sexual Violence

Distinguishing and identifying the truths about sexual violence.

When it comes to sexual violence, can you separate the myths from the facts? Here are some misconceptions and the truth about sexual violence.

MYTH: Many people believe that sexual violence won’t happen to them or someone they know, but that’s not true.  FACT: It doesn’t matter about your social status, race, or background – sexual assault can happen to anyone. However, there are people who are more at risk of experiencing assault, including people with disabilities, those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who are trans. Some people believe that sexual violence is committed by strangers, but again, most sexual assaults (82%) are committed by someone you know and trust.
MYTH: Sexual assaults happen in public, and in dark alleys.  FACT: Most often, assaults happen in homes and private places.
MYTH: If someone is passed out (from drugs, alcohol, etc.), it is okay to have sex with them. FACT: If anyone is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, they can’t legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.
MYTH: If the assault wasn’t reported it doesn’t constitute sexual assault. FACT: A sexual assault is a sexual assault, and only 10% of known occurrences are reported to the police. People sometimes think that survivors make up stories and tell lies about sexual violence, but the number of false reports for sexual assaults are very low and consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada. Sexual assault carries such a stigma that many survivors prefer not to report for fear of being re-victimized.
MYTH: If an individual didn’t scream or fight back, this means they’ve given consent.  FACT: Being afraid or paralyzed with fear is most likely the reason. Often people believe that the perpetrator will become more violent if you struggle, and if you’re under any influence, this may also prevent resisting. There is a widely held belief that if someone isn’t crying or visibly upset, then it’s not a big deal. The fact is each person responds to trauma differently – they may cry or stay calm. They may be silent or get very angry. Their behaviour isn’t an indicator of their experience. It is important not to judge anyone by how they respond to the assault.
MYTH: If there is no physical harm on the victim, then it wasn’t sexual assault. FACT: Lack of physical injury doesn’t mean that the person didn’t use threat by a weapon or other coercive actions that don’t leave physical harm, but psychological harm.
MYTH: If the act of rape didn’t occur, it means 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: If someone can’t give chronological details, or there are gaps in the telling of the sexual violence, then it didn’t occur.  FACT: Shock, fear, embarrassment, and distress can impair memory. Many survivors attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a way of coping with trauma. Memory loss is also common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved.
MYTH: Those with disabilities don’t experience sexual assault.  FACT: People with disabilities are at a high risk of experiencing sexual violence or assault. In fact, they are twice as likely to be assaulted than able-bodied people.
MYTH: You can’t sexually assault your spouse because you’re in a relationship.  FACT: Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship. A partner still needs consent to engage in any and all sexual activities.


Sexual Violence Survivor’s HandbookChapter 3: Myths & Facts About Sexual Violence

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