During her time in college, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted and 1 in 33 men will also be sexually assaulted.
Sexual assault and rape are the two most underreported crimes: 50 to 90% of rapes go unreported, and 15 out of 16 rapists walk free. On college campuses, 90% of sexual assaults are not reported.
Though these facts are true, there are a number of misleading myths and misconceptions regarding sexual assault—here are the 10 most common.
Myth #1: If you are engaged in a relationship with someone or have had sex with them before, it cannot be considered sexual assault.
Fact: Sexual assault is about an individual giving consent to engage in sexual activity, regardless of the relationship.
Date rape makes up 50 to 75% of reported rapes on college campuses. To understand more about the myths associated with college sexual assault, you must know what date rape is. Date rape is often referred to as acquaintance rape, which can be a current or ex-boyfriend, classmate, friend, acquaintance or anyone who has already established a relationship and trust with the victim. If two people have had consensual sex before, that does not mean they have consent for every and all future sexual encounters. Consent is not given for different occasions at once, but it is given each time sexual activity occurs. A common misconception regarding acquaintance rape is that the victim alienates themselves from their attacker, however, they are acquaintances.
Myth #2: It is not sexual assault if the perpetrator states they said “yes” while intoxicated.
Fact: Being under the influence is not an invitation for non-consensual sexual activity. In fact, a victim who is under the influence or, in some cases, given intoxicating drugs, is not capable of giving consent. Perpetrators will use their intoxication as an excuse to not take responsibility for their actions. Victims often times feel it is their fault for what happened by being intoxicated, but the law states they are not legally able to consent. Intoxication is more often associated with date rape because of the victims being in social settings.
Myth #3: When someone says no to sexual activity, yet a person persists, pressuring them until they say “yes” isn’t a crime.
Fact: This is sexual assault, and it falls into the coercion category, which is not consent. Coercion is a tactic used to emotionally manipulate or persuade someone to do something they may not want to do, such as being sexual or performing certain sexual acts. Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to having sex and is considered sexual assault.
Myth #4: It’s not really rape when a person changes their mind in the middle of sexual activity.
Example: They were OK with doing some things, so how was I supposed to know that it didn’t mean everything?
Fact: Consent is retractable. Someone can consent to one sexual act, but that does not mean they consent to all. Someone can say “yes,” but if at any point they change their mind and say “no,” the person is to stop, or it is considered sexual assault. The perpetrators are responsible for respecting the victim’s choice to change their mind.
Myth #5: Sexual assault is committed by a stranger.
Fact: On college campuses, 8 out of 10 sexual assaults are committed by an ex-boyfriend, classmate, friend, acquaintance or coworker who has already established a relationship and trust with the victim.
Myth #6: If the victim is physically aroused or has an orgasm while being assaulted, then they weren’t really assaulted.
Fact: An orgasm is a natural biological reaction to physical stimulation that someone cannot control. That does not mean the sexual activity was consensual or they “wanted it.” This is often used to silence the victims, and for the perpetrator to convince themselves and others the victim wanted it.
Myth #7: If someone is sexually assaulted more than once, then they must be lying.
Fact: According to Girls Globe, a study showed women who have been sexually assaulted once are 35 times more likely to be assaulted again than a woman who has never been assaulted.
Myth #8: Someone who was sexually assaulted would be crying and become depressed after the assault.
Fact: Everyone responds differently to trauma. There is a wide spectrum of how a victim will act: crying, lashing out, laughing or showing no emotion at all. Some victims may seem like a completely new person in an attempt to reclaim their body.
Some suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or depression after an assault. Some may block out the entire experience of sexual assault for years before having physical or PTSD reactions. Many victims put on a mask in front of others to block out true emotions. There is no set way to deal with or express what it is like to be sexually assaulted.
Myth #9: Women lie about being sexually assaulted and just want revenge or have guilt.
Fact: The FBI estimates 2% of sexual assault reports are falsely reported, which is the same as any other felony.
Myth #10: All sexual assaults are reported to the police right after it happens, and if they don’t report it right away or at all, they must be lying.
Fact: Some victims fear being blamed for the assault or fear going through the criminal justice system reliving the assault or their perpetrator not be held accountable. The fear of retaliation or coming off as a liar often discourages victims from coming forward. Whether a victim chooses to report the assault does not mean it did not occur.
Sexual assault is one of the greatest crises facing women and men on college campuses today. It is important all students become aware of the danger it presents for them and that administrations are proactive in addressing this threat so that no student feels unsafe at college.