Myths and Facts About Sexual Assault (SAFE Campus)

The following are common myths and facts about sexual assault.

Myth: Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers.
Fact: Someone known to the victim - acquaintances, dating partners, common-law or married partners, commit approximately 82% of sexual assaults. In college or university, over 90% of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance/date.

Myth: Sexual assault is most likely to happen outside in dark, dangerous places.
Fact: The majority of sexual assaults happen in private places like a residence or private home.

Myth: If a woman doesn’t report to the police, it wasn’t a sexual assault.
Fact: Just because a victim doesn’t report the assault, it doesn’t mean that the assault didn’t happen. Fewer than one in ten victims report the crime to the police.

Myth: It’s not a big deal to have sex with a woman while she is drunk or passed out.
Fact: If a woman is unconscious or incapable of giving consent due to the use of drugs or alcohol, she cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.

Myth: If a woman doesn’t scream or fight back her assailant, it probably wasn’t sexual assault.
Fact: When a woman is sexually assaulted she may become paralyzed with fear and be unable to fight back. She may be fearful that if she struggles, the perpetrator will become more violent. If she is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, she may be incapacitated or unable to resist.

Myth: If a woman isn’t crying or visibly upset, it probably wasn’t sexual assault.
Fact: Lack of physical injury does not mean that the woman wasn’t sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or coercive actions that do not leave physical marks. The woman may have been unconscious or otherwise incapacitated.

Myth: If a sexual assault happens, the woman would be able to recount all the facts in order of the events and actions.
Fact: Shock, fear, embarrassment and distress can impair memory. Many survivors attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a coping with the trauma experienced. Memory loss is common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved.

Myth: Women lie and make up stories about being sexually assaulted.
Fact: The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low, consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada. Sexual assault carries such a stigma that many women prefer not to report.

Myth: It wasn’t sexual assault or “rape” so it wasn’t sexual violence.
Fact: Any unwanted sexual contact is considered to be sexual violence. A survivor can be severely affected by all forms of sexual violence - unwanted fondling, rubbing, kissing, or other sexual acts. Many forms of sexual violence involve no physical contact, such as stalking or distributing intimate visual recordings or images. All these acts are serious and can be damaging.

Myth: Women with disabilities don’t get sexually assaulted.
Fact: Women with disabilities are at a high risk of experiencing sexual violence or assault. Those who live with activity limitations are over two times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those who have no activity limitations.

Myth: Husbands cannot sexually assault their wives.
Fact: Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship.

Myth: Men are not sexually assaulted.
Fact: Men are sexually assaulted. Between one in six and one in ten males are sexually assaulted. A majority of male survivors were assaulted when they were children or teenagers, yet adult men can be assaulted as well. Any man can be sexually assaulted regardless of size, strength, sexual orientation, or appearance.

Myth: The victim must have “asked for it” by being seductive, careless, drunk, etc.
Fact: No one asks to be abused, injured, or humiliated. This line of thought blames the victim for what happened instead of the perpetrator who chose to commit the crime. Individuals of all ages, all genders, and all walks of life, have been targets of sexual assault. Not one of them “caused” their assailant to commit a crime against them.

Myth: When women say “no”, they really mean “yes”.
Fact: Only “yes” means “yes”. When someone says yes, s/he is explicitly giving consent. Silence does not equal consent. It is the responsibility of the person initiating or escalating sexual activity to obtain affirmative consent at each and every level. If you are unclear about your partner’s wishes, ask for clarification. If your partner says no or seems unsure, respect that person and his/her wishes.


Myths and facts courtesy of:

  • Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities, 2013
  • SAPAC - Sexual Assault Prevention & Awareness Center
  • Rainy River District Sexual Assault Network