13 Lies We Tell About Rape and Sexual Assault

by Inda Lauryn Trigger warning: Discussions of rape and sexual assault Rape and sexual assault ...

by Inda Lauryn



Trigger warning: Discussions of rape and sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault are difficult subjects to tackle, especially for those who have survived an attack. However, the March conviction of Darren Sharper for the rape of nine different women in different states and the re-emergence of Mary Kay Letourneau in pop culture conversations prompt us to confront the myths about rape and sexual assault. Many still believe that a rapist is only the psychopath hiding in the bushes, waiting for a victim. Or that rape only happens to a “certain type” of woman. In fact, rape culture confuses us to the point in which we sometimes do not know how to identify rape. With this list, we hope to dispel misinformation and the often inaccurate assumptions about rape and sexual assault.

Lie #1: Rape is about sex.

Simply put: rape is about power, not sex. Rape is not sex.

Lie #2: All sexual assault is rape.

Rape is a specific type of sexual assault. It does not have to include physical force. Forcing someone into sex through psychological coercion also constitutes rape. Forced penetration with a foreign object constitutes rape. Sexual assault includes other types of sexual violence in addition to rape—such as attempted rape as well as verbal threats of rape.

Lie #3: Some women “ask” to be assaulted.

No one ever asks to be assaulted or raped. By its very definition, rape occurs without consent of the victim. Furthermore, a woman cannot prevent rape by the way she dresses, wears her hair, or otherwise presents herself. Rape happens because a rapist decides to take control of another person.

Lie #4: A person cannot rape his/her partner.

Despite many people’s beliefs, a person is most likely to be raped by an intimate partner in a relationship. In fact, approximately 80% of survivors are assaulted by someone they know or with whom they are intimately acquainted.

Lie #5: Arousal or stimulation means that the person was not raped or sexually assaulted.

Just because a person shows signs of arousal or stimulation does not mean she or he consented to sex. The body’s physiological reaction to stimuli does not necessarily mean that the person wants to perform sexually at that time.

Lie #6: A survivor has to recover from their assault within a certain time frame.

A rape survivor has no obligation to “get over” their assault within a time frame that makes others comfortable. Each survivor deals with the aftermath of an assault in a different way. Some may be able to talk to others and report the crime right away while others can carry the secret for a lifetime. Even survivors who show signs of coping with an assault may have days in dealing with it and still need a strong support system, no matter how long ago the assault occurred. In short, rape and sexual assault are not crimes that survivors simply “get over.” The healing lasts a lifetime.


Lie #7: A woman with a previous sexual history cannot be raped or sexually assaulted.

A woman can be raped whether she has never before had sex or has had multiple partners. Just because she has consented to sex or certain sex acts previously does not mean she cannot be raped.

Lie #8: Rape and sexual assault do not occur within LGBTQ communities.

About one in eight lesbians is raped and about half of all bisexual women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. In fact, half of all bisexual women are raped before the age of 18. A little fewer than half of all bisexual men are victims of sexual violence. About 40% of gay men have been victims of sexual violence. About half of all transgender people have been victims of rape and sexual violence during their lifetimes. Furthermore, members of the LGBTQ community also experience intimate partner violence as well, no matter the gender of their partners.

Lie #9: Men cannot be raped.

Rape can happen to anyone. Furthermore, cisgender men can be raped by cisgender women. Just as it is true for women, rape does not only happen to a certain type of man. A man’s perceived weakness does not mean he is more or less likely to be raped in his lifetime.

Lie #10: Rape cannot happen if the survivor is already engaged in a sexual act.

Just because a person consents to one or more sexual acts does not mean there is consent for others. Agreeing to one sexual act does not imply consent for another. Furthermore, if a person asks to stop with a current sexual act, continuing constitutes sexual assault.

Lie #11: The criminal justice system always gives due diligence when investigating sexual violence crimes.

It is believed that only 70 of every 1000 victims report their assaults to the authorities. Only 2 percent of rapists will ever be convicted or spend time in jail. Furthermore, when sexual crimes are reported, often the survivors experience victim-blaming rather than being treated as if they have been violated.

Lie #12: Most rape accusations are false.

Unfortunately, a person is more likely to be raped than to face a false accusation. In fact, many rapes often go unreported for fear of being victimized again. Only two out of every 1000 reported sexual assault cases are false. Furthermore, rape culture often encourages female victims not to report their assaults because they risk “ruining” the lives of their rapists.

Lie #13: A survivor of rape or sexual assault must forgive the attacker.

Under no circumstances is a survivor required to forgive the person who committed the assault. Forgiveness is not necessary as part of the healing process. It is okay if a survivor does not want to have any contact with an attacker even if they have previously been acquainted or close.

These are only a few myths rape culture perpetuates. While survivors still face stigma, rapists still find protection through societal norms and laws. Confronting the myths and learning about rape and sexual assault are the only means towards ending rape culture.

Photo: Shutterstock

Inda Lauryn has previously been published in Blackberry, A Magazine, Interfictions, The Toast, and Callaloo, as well as had her work featured on blogs such as Black Girl Nerds, Bitch Flicks, and AfroPunk. She is currently working on a novel and countless other unfinished writing projects, occasionally blogs at Corner Store Press and shares music playlists at MixCloud.

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