Rape is an act which involves sexual intercourse or penetration against a person without that person’s consent. The term “rape” is often an equivalent of the term “sexual assault,” which includes any act involving sexual contact to a person who doesn’t explicitly agree to engage in such an act. “Rape is a violent crime. It brutally assaults the victim’s core self and the physical, psychological, neurological, and cognitive systems that integrate functioning,” says Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP.
Rape myths are “prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists.” Aside from the emotional and psychological effects of rape, rape myths may also pose harm to the victims, whether female or male.
Female Rape Myths
Examples of myths against female rape victims include the following statements:
It’s her fault that she got raped because…
- she got drunk;
- she wore low‐cut tops or short skirts;
- she went home with a man she doesn’t know;
- the way she said “no” was ambiguous;
- she went to the home or apartment of a man on the first date;
- she’s hitchhiking;
- she thought she’s too good to talk to guys on the street.
“It is important to remember that no one willingly invites violence against him or her. Nothing we do, say, or how we dress should serve as justification for violence or violation of our personal space and physical boundaries,” Hung Tran, Psy.D. said.
It wasn’t rape because…
- she didn’t physically resist having sex;
- she didn’t have any bruises or marks;
- the rapist didn’t have any weapon to threaten her.
It is not the guy’s fault because…
- he was very sexually aroused that he didn’t even realize she was resisting;
- his sex drive got out of control.
She wanted it because…
- she finds being physically forced into sex a real “turn‐on”;
- she secretly desires to be raped;
- she has an unconscious wish to be raped and may have then unconsciously set up a situation in which someone would attack her.
She is lying because…
- she agreed to have sex and “changed her mind” afterward;
- she was accusing him of rape to get back at him;
- she was trying to protect her reputation.
Rape is not an important thing to discuss because…
- it isn’t as bad as being mugged and beaten;
- women tend to exaggerate on how rape affects them.
Rape only happens to women who are…
- from the “bad” side of town;
- often in bars;
- not in their own home;
- promiscuous and have a bad reputation.
Male Rape Myths
While research supports that there are more women rape victims than men, we shouldn’t dismiss the significant number of male rape victims. Like female rape victims, male rape victims are also affected by false beliefs on male rape. Examples of rape myths against male victims include the following:
- Male rapists are usually homosexuals.
- Male victims of rape are to blame for not fighting off their assailant.
- A male rape victim has lost his manhood.
- A male rape victim may become homosexual.
- If a man gets an erection while being sexually assaulted, then it was not rape.
Attackers or rapists can use rape myths to get away from their wrongdoing. They can exploit these false beliefs to dismiss a sexual assault or rape claim. Hearing someone talk about these myths could also worsen the emotional and psychological problem of the victims.
Hence, whether we are victims or non-victims of rape or any sexual assault, we should all free ourselves from believing in these myths and start spreading awareness against them because they may further harm sexual assault victims. “Disclosure of an unspeakable event is beyond what many can do in the immediate aftermath of rape but that need not preclude reaching for help. Often it is in that step towards help that a small re-ordering of life begins,” says Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP.