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Myth and Facts about Sexual Assault

MYTH: Most sexual crimes are committed by strangers.

FACT: Despite the over-representation of stranger rapes in the media, the vast majority of sexual assaults occur between people who know each other. Research reports that from 62% to 92% of rapes are committed by known assailants (U.S. Department of Justice-National Crime Victimization Survey 1993-2000). Sex offenders are often partners, spouses, friends, or acquaintances of the victim.

MYTH: Sex crimes are crimes of passion or desire.

FACT : Every sex crime is a crime of violence, power and control. Rapists often use objects for penetration, affording them little sexual gratification.

MYTH: Sexual offenders commit these crimes in order to get sex.

FACT: Sex offenders get gratification from intimidating, humiliating, and degrading their victims.

MYTH: People provoke sexual assaults by dressing "sexy." Only certain types of people are sexually assaulted.

FACT: People of both sexes, all ages, professions and styles of dress have become victims of sexual assaults.

MYTH: It's easy to tell who is a sex offender.

FACT: Sex offenders come from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds. A sex offender can be anyone: male, female, married, a friend, relative, acquaintance or stranger. Sex offenders may even look "wholesome" or possess "movie star" good looks, which they use to make their approach to victims easier.

MYTH: Women falsely claim rape to get even with men.

FACT: Nationwide surveys of police departments indicate rape is one of the least falsely reported crimes, reporting a rate of 2%. Rape is also one of the most underreported crimes, with only 1 in every 10 assaults being reported to the police. Women who do report rape face a long and difficult process of continuous disclosure and questioning of their character.

MYTH: If the victim doesn't fight back, it's not rape.

FACT: When someone is being forced to have sex, s/he may believe that the rapist is capable of other types of violence. S/he may be frozen with fear and shock of what is happening. S/he may also decide that fighting now will only anger the person further to commit violence that could be fatal. In other cases, the victim may have been coerced into having sex, or may have been forced to have sex while intoxicated or otherwise impaired. Ultimately, it does not matter if the victim fought back or not, if consent was not given freely, than it was rape.

MYTH: Men and boys can't be raped.

FACT: Anyone is vulnerable to sexual victimization. The U.S. Dept. of Justice-National Crime Victimization Survey 2000 found that 5.6% of all rape victims are male.

If you or someone you know has been hurt:

Campus Advocacy Network

Resources for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Abuse

After an Assault


This project was supported by Grant No. 2002-WA-BX-0011 awarded by the Office of Violence Against Women and the U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.