Rape Myths

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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.

 

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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;
  • single;
  • 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.

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What Now?

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.

 2015 San Francisco Women Abuse Statistics: What Was She Wearing?

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Today’s fashion trend may not be favorable for most people as they are too bold and daring. Because of this, it has been a debate about whether clothing has something to do with the alarming number of sexual abuses. The 2015 San Francisco Women Abuse Statistics show the soaring number of sexual abuses, both reported and unreported. Does rape have something to do with what the women were wearing? “Society needs to stop re-victimizing the victims of sexual assault (“What were you wearing?” “Did you drink too much?” “Did you resist?” “Are you sure he knew you didn’t want to?”) and focus its efforts on teaching perpetrators of this crime that people’s boundaries and rights must be respected at all times,” says John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Three Reasons Why Clothing Doesn’t Have Anything To Do With Rape Cases:

  1. No clothes literally speak, “Rape me!” Fashion, nowadays, may be too revealing, but humans are naturally sexual. They think whatever they desire. Rapists feel the urge regardless of what the woman is wearing, and this has been proven many times. Most rape victims were even wearing decent and unrevealing clothes during the time they were abused.
  2. Sex addiction, hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, compulsive sexual behavior, or sexual compulsivity is a mental health condition where an individual is urged to think of sex, and it may be irrelevant whether the object of desire is wearing appropriate clothes or not. The eyes see beyond the layers of clothes because the mind may already imagine the person.
  3. Our eyes may play a vital role in stimulating our emotions. However, our actions are not entirely based on what we see. Rape becomes it when one person gives in to the urge of having sex with someone who doesn’t consent, and it takes more than the eyes to do such a crime. “Everyone has the right to refuse and change his or her mind, and to feel uncertain towards something. Any time someone does not respect another’s personal wishes, any sexual act between them is no longer consensual but rather an act of violence/assault,” says Hung Tran, Psy.D.
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Clothing may play a vital role in determining identity. Often, it sends the wrong message because no person would want to be violated, and it is not right to blame rape cases on what women are wearing. Yes, it may be too much, but no matter how thin or small the piece of clothing a woman is wearing, nothing is equivalent to the message, “Rape me!” “Rape is often experienced as an annihilation of the ownership of self — a loss of the self’s ability to act, to make meaning or register what is happening, to remember. Feelings are overwhelming or numbed. Narrative is destroyed. There are no words for what is too horrific to comprehend,” according to Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP.

 

Is It Rape Even After I Gave Consent?

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“Yes means yes.” It is of utmost importance that you and your partner agree and give sexual consent before you engage in any sexual activity. Otherwise, of course, it will be classified as rape or sexual assault.

Sexual consent is all about setting boundaries and making sure that things are clear between you and your partner. You should give it throughout the act, but you can also revoke it if you feel uncomfortable. So, is it still rape even after you have given consent? Yes, it can be. “In reality, sexual assaults committed by strangers comprise only a very small percentage. An individual is 73% more likely to be assaulted by someone they know or someone close to them,” says Hung Tran, Psy.D.

Here are some instances that can constitute rape:

Your Partner Removes The Condom Even After You Required It

If your partner removes it either by force or manipulation even after you told them that a condom is a requirement, it is considered a sexual violation. This violation of trust is a big deal for some individuals.

Removing a condom may expose you to different dangers. You can be susceptible to various sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially if he has multiple sex partners, not to mention the higher risk of HIV. For some couples, sex without a condom also increases the chance of unwanted pregnancies.

Someone Keeps Badgering You Until You Agree To Have Sex With Them

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If someone has to keep pestering you to agree into having sex, then that is not consent. It is practically coercion, which negates the idea of consent. It should be about both parties wanting to be sexual with each other.

Your Partner Forces You Into A Sexual Act To Which You Didn’t Agree

Consent does not automatically mean that you agree with acts other than the one agreed upon. If you agreed to vaginal sex, but your partner penetrated you anally instead, that can be called rape. Acts that your partner forces you to do against your will constitute rape or sexual assault. It does not matter if you’ve had sex with them before. It also does not matter if you agreed to the act previously. Even if you are married, any sexual act done without your consent is still rape.

Consent Is Taken Back At Any Point During Sex

If you agree to have sex with a person, then you can take it back later or even during sex. If you had a change of mind before or during sex, you could still say no. Even if both of you are already naked on the bed, you can say no if you do not feel like having sex. “If a husband holds his wife down, pushes her, or imposes sex by hurting her, it’s rape. Making love doesn’t include making someone cry,” says Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., a psychologist and marriage and family counselor.

Bottom Line

Consent is as easy as FRIES. Consent is

  • freely given,
  • reversible,
  • informed,
  • enthusiastic, and
  • specific.

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Any sexual activity without consent is rape. Anyone can be a victim regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Some people are more at risk than others. Not all rape looks the same so that it can happen to anyone in different ways. You can always ask for help should you experience them. You are not alone. Your voice will not fall on deaf ears, and support is always available. “If you’re a victim of sexual assault, there are many resources available to you. The first and best place to start is at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Their “Find Help” resource page offers a directory of resources for your area, including victim support organizations that can be of further help,” a reminder from John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

How Counseling Turns Suffering And Anger To Compassion

Sexual violence is a crime hard to forgive both on the part of the victim and her family.  It poses so much danger to the victim as it affects many facets of that individual’s well-being, which includes, but not limited to, the psychological and emotional imbalance of the mind and body. According to John M. Grohol, Psy.D. ,”Many people who suffer from sexual abuse or sexual assault can also suffer long-term effects from the abuse.”

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The Experience Is Detrimental To Mental Health

Victims are expected to experience a sudden shift in their mental health like having flashbacks or hearing something they heard during that moment they were being assaulted, which might trigger them to remember how they were abused and may result in fears and trauma.  “When you are traumatized, you lose control of your life. You may feel like you still don’t have any control over your life,” says Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.

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The trauma that the victims experienced may cause them to have mood swings, resulting in suffering and a feeling of anger towards their perpetrator.   If they are left unattended and untreated, victims of rape, human trafficking, sexual abuse and other forms of maltreatment may experience mental issues which may get worse as they grow old.  It is commonly found that a victim of malicious acts suffers from depression, anxiety, and even panic attacks.

How Support Groups Can Help

“Help the survivor find other resources, such as a support group, psychotherapy, or relevant professionals in the community,” said experts Dena Rosenbloom PhD and Mary Beth Williams PhD. There are many institutions and support groups that help individuals who are victims of sexual violence.  They know and understand how traumatic the experience is on the part of the individual especially when it was done to her at a very young age.   It may affect her behavior around the community, in school, or in the workplace, and even her relationship with her family and friends can change.

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Joining a support group is necessary to help the victim understand why such things sometimes happen. It’s not easy, but with the guidance of a counselor, she will learn to come to terms with it.  She will learn to determine what she can do to avoid such violent act from happening again.  Understanding the situation of the victim will help her get through the traumatic experience like talking to her, trying to connect and ask what she needs, making her feel comfortable in trusting a person again and making her forget her bad experience little by little.

Support groups offer counseling that can help victims cope with the emotional stress caused by the abuse.  The victim may find the experience more bearable and tolerable if someone will listen to her and offer her lifelong advice which the other person had struggled with before.

The Fear Of Being Judged

Counseling renders services wherein you can talk to a professional without being judged. Talking about past abusive experiences is a sensitive topic for the victim, but it will help her lessen the pain and make her understand that it is not her fault and she can get through with it and forgive the person who did her wrong.  Forgiving is not easy, but it will eventually come once the victim’s pain has lessened, and she has accepted what had happened to her and had prepared herself to move on from that nightmare.

What the counselor wants to avoid is for the victim to have passive suicidal thoughts, have ideas of revenge, imagine doing the same thing to another individual, and other negative thoughts and feelings.   That is why it is essential to reach out to the victims of abuse and offer help as much as you can to save them from ruining their lives.

The Victim Must Understand That Forgiveness Is For Her Own Peace Of Mind

It is hard for a victim to go on with life with a heavy heart, holding a grudge against her assailant and other people who have caused her suffering, and act as if nothing had happened or what happened is a normal occurrence.  She is in a lot of pain and in a state of confusion.   There are a lot of questions at the back of her mind, like how can life be so cruel for letting such thing happen to her, where is God during that moment, and more, which when left unanswered will leave her in the dark.

Every day is a battle for her – her thoughts, anger, and feelings for that person.  But as long as she knows that there are people who are willing to help her and make her feel that she is understood and accepted no matter what had happened, she will soon have the confidence to live again and get out of that dark corner of her life and go out in the light.

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Counseling can guide a victim through different interventions, so she can let go of the past and turn her suffering and anger to compassion for her perpetrator.   As she learns to be compassionate to her abuser, she is learning to free herself from anger, and that will eventually lead her to a more positive and happy life.

 

Survivor To Thriver: A Rape Victim’s Journey To Recovery

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The healing process of recovering from a sexual assault takes time. “Sexual harassment and assault can be a humiliating experience to recount privately, let alone publicly,” says psychotherapist Beverly Engel L.M.F.T. Beyond the physical injuries, the victim has to endure the painful undertaking of psychological trauma. Flashbacks and unpleasant memories haunt the victim at any moment after that, inflicting emotions of fear, brokenness, and misery. Anxiety attack becomes an everyday experience, which makes it challenging for the victim to trust his or her surroundings.

However, some victims fight the agonizing aftermath of sexual trauma. At the end of the seemingly unending darkness, they come out triumphant: victims become survivors. The process of healing culminates in the sense of regaining the confidence and rebuilding the worth of the survivor. According to psychologist Nathan Heflick, Women who place a higher value on their own appearance are more likely to report that they would provide emotional support for a rape victim.”

Movement Against Violence

#MeToo is a social media movement that went viral in 2017 and provided a platform for rape survivors to voice their stories of horrendous sexual abuse and empowering recovery. Founded in 2006, this movement helps survivors of sexual violence find healing and peace.

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The campaign notably funds various forms of activities and assistance which are beneficial to the path towards the healing of the survivor. Moreover, they gather and build a community of advocates geared towards eradicating sexual violence and abuse.

In The Life Of A Rape Victim

Inspired by the movement is Anne Lauren, a woman warrior who battled incest sexual violence committed by her father. She authored the book “Blue&Lavender.” The story tells her horrifying experience and recovery from the abusive incident. Whether to speak up about offensive behavior is a personal decision that should not be made impulsively or lightly; just as there are consequences for remaining silent, there can be consequences for anyone who doesn’t take the time or spend the energy to investigate their rights, plan their response, and document what happens.” This is according to clinical/forensic psychologist Joni E. Johnston, Psy.D.

She grew up believing that she was a worthless human being, deserving of all the violent episodes that happened to her. When she reached the phase of womanhood, she slowly became more aware of her worth as a person. She began to regain her sense of control and acknowledge her strengths and capabilities.

However, Anne’s recollection of her abusive past continued to plague her present, making her feel depressed and anxious. For the past years, she dealt with her struggles and pain alone. Trying to mend from the brokenness, she drowned herself in psychotherapy treatments, medications, spiritual meditations, and exercise routines to support her natural healing. But trying to recover from the hurtful experience and reclaim her identity only made her tiresome and ragged. It is when she stumbled upon the #MeToo movement.

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Gently opening up her pain to the world brought light to the acceptance of her experiences in life. Resonating with her sentiments and struggles, the survivor community shared her sorrows, and Anne was able to connect with them. In it, she found mentors who guided her in the transition from being a survivor to a thriver. These mentors walked her through the path towards a new and better life. She came upon conferences and retreats specifically to support women in recovery from all forms of individual battles, such as addiction, eating disorders, and sexual abuse.

Anne realized that recovery happens not in an isolated environment. Instead, it occurs in a safe place, together with people who understand and share your struggles with you. Uplifting one another, they came off robust and thriving together.

Shame On Who? Supporting Survivors Of Rape

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Rape is preventable, but victim-blaming makes it seem inevitable. Victim blaming is the attitude and tendency to view the victim of abuse as responsible for the assault. That a woman would be blamed at all for being sexually assaulted is in itself disturbing, as surely the blame lies solely with the attacker. That a woman’s clothing at the time would factor into this decision of blame is, I think, even more astonishing,” says psychologist Nathan Heflick. Victim blaming implies that the survivor is at fault, and this reinforces the perpetrator’s narrative. It obstructs our ability to support people who have endured this trauma.

Language

The culture of blaming the victim manifests itself in language in different ways. Examples of common statements include the following:

She asked for it. She wanted it. Look at what she was wearing!

Erika Shershun, Marriage & Family Therapist,  MA, MFT, states that “In this challenging political climate many sexual harassment, assault, and abuse survivors are finding themselves triggered on a weekly if not daily basis.” No one asks for rape. No one wants it. No one deserves it. Rapists rape people, not outfits, and campaigns such as “What Were You Wearing?” have proven how rape occurs regardless of what a woman is wearing. Showing cleavage is not consent. Drinking or being alone is not consent. Wearing a mini skirt or make-up is not consent. Regardless of the situation, consent is critical.

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He didn’t mean to do it.

Rape is not the presence of no; it’s the absence of yes. Consent is clear here. Blurring the lines exacerbates the problem. It bears a silencing effect on the survivors, many of whom will choose not to report the attack because they believe it was “not serious enough.”

She lied. How is she so sure?

Many survivors cannot remember all the details of their rape because they were either drunk or drugged, and this affects their memory. However, traumatic experiences scramble your memories. They claim to have vivid, sensory memories, such as images, sounds and smells. Some survivors even remember these decades after the incident. These are the most distressing moments, and they get “locked-in” and remain “very salient.”

Unfortunately, when survivors are asked to recall other peripheral information, such as the exact time of the assault or who was present—facts that police and prosecutors look for to establish the facts of a crime—they are unable to do so. Survivors who report the incident, as few as they are, may even struggle or contradict themselves, consequently undermining their testimony.

Shame On Who?

“This sense of shame often causes victims to blame themselves for the sexual misconduct of their perpetrator,” says Beverly Engel L.M.F.T. Victim blaming affects not only the individual or the community but also the society, as survivors continue to bear the burden of proof, cases remain unresolved, and perpetrators run free.

Most importantly, victim-blaming perpetuates social acceptance of holding the survivor accountable, instead of the person who should bear the burden of the blame—the perpetrator.

To better support survivors who choose to share their stories with us, we must do the following:

  • Believe them. We should take survivors at their word and trust that they are telling the Acknowledge how incredibly difficult it is for survivors to share stories of trauma and abuse. These stories deserve our respect.
  • Reassure them that they did nothing wrong. It was not their fault. Do not let survivors blame themselves. Perpetrators are to blame, always.

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  • Avoid accusations. We could be invalidating their experience—maybe even their sense of self—if we point out how the survivor could have acted or responded differently.
  • Challenge victim-blaming statements when you hear them. These are never a joke. People might not realize that their attitude makes the victim seem at fault. Kindly counter what they say, and raise awareness in others. Jokes can also normalize victim-blaming by making light of trauma. Call these out immediately.

Victim blaming exacerbates rape. We can all help survivors. Let’s support them the way they need to be supported.