Rape Myths

Rapists are strangers lurking in alleyways (with a weapon).

The vast majority of people who commit sexual assault and rape know their victims. They are family members, romantic partners, babysitters, and trusted friends. The most common location for a rape to occur is in the home of the victim. Often the only ‘weapon’ used is the rapist’s body.

Clothes, makeup, and sexual attraction provoke rape.

Rape and sexual violence is about power, control, and often entitlement. While sexual attraction may be present, it is not the cause. Perpetrators make a conscious decision to violate their victims. Many of us experience sexual attraction and manage to go our entire lives without raping anyone.

If you were really assaulted, you would have fought back.

It is common for victims of rape and sexual assault to freeze during the attack, particularly in cases when they know their attacker and/or when fighting or fleeing is not possible (i.e. an exit is blocked). This is a survival response; not a choice. A victim is not required to fight, scream, or scratch for it to “count.”

If you don’t look “traumatized,” then you weren’t really assaulted.

Trauma can cause victims to behave differently than we might expect. Experiencing shock or denial is incredibly common. Just because someone “acts like nothing’s wrong” or doesn’t go to the police right away (or at all) does not mean they weren’t assaulted.

It’s common for women to “cry rape” when they regret sex.

False rape reports are not common. In fact, they are no more common than any other crime.Statistically speaking, it is more likely a man will be a victim of rape than be falsely accused of it.

You can “prevent” rape simply by being careful.

While the phrase “be careful” is generally not bad advice, it is NOT rape prevention. Rape is not caused by victims being careless. It is caused by a perpetrator making a decision to violate another human being. Telling potential victims to simply “be careful” doesn’t prevent rape. And it doesn’t address the root causes of sexual violence. However, this advice can contribute to victim-blaming and cause those who have already been victimized to blame themselves.

Men cannot be raped.

Anyone can experience sexual violence at any age. This including men and boys. Studies suggest that 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18 and that 1 in 33 men are victims of attempted or completed rape. This myth adds to the intense shame and isolation that many male survivors experience.

This problem is too big; nothing I do will make a difference.

Rape and sexual assault are not inevitable. Each of us has the power to create real change in our lives and in society. One way we can do that is to share accurate information about rape and sexual assault. We can also actively challenge rape myths when we hear them perpetuated by friends, family members, and the media. For more ways to make a difference, click here.


Visit www.rainn.org/statistics for more information.