Awake! 1993 March 8 pp.4-5 The Reality of Rape
Rape myths create a false sense of security. In other words, if you can find some fault in the victim's behavior-she dressed in tight clothing or she went out alone at night or she really wanted to have sexual relations-you or your loved ones will be safe if that conduct is avoided; therefore you will never be raped. The alternative, that rape is a senseless act of violence that can happen to anybody, regardless of how she is dressed, is too terrifying to accept.
One woman, raped by someone she thought of as "nice, respectable," pleads: "The worst possible thing you can do is believe it won't happen to you."
Rape Myths and Realities
The following are some of the long-held misconceptions about rape that serve to blame the victim and to perpetuate attitudes that encourage the perpetrators:
Myth: Rape happens only when a woman is attacked by a stranger.
Fact: The majority of women who are raped are assaulted by someone they know and had trusted. One study found that 84 percent of victims knew their attackers and that 57 percent of the rapes happened on dates. One out of 7 married women will be raped by her own husband. Rapes are violent and emotionally traumatic whether the attacker is a stranger, a spouse, or a date.
Myth: It's rape only if a woman afterward shows evidence of resistance, such as bruises.
Fact: Whether they physically resisted or not, few women show visible evidence, such as bruises or cuts.
Myth: A rape victim bears part of the blame unless she actively resists.
Fact: Rape by definition takes place when force or the threat of force is used to gain sexual penetration, of any kind whatsoever, against a person's will. It is the rapist's use of force against an unwilling victim that makes him a rapist. Thus, a rape victim is not guilty of fornication. Like an incest victim, she may be forced to submit to an act she doesn't want because of the perceived power held over her by another person. When a woman is forced to submit to a rapist out of terror or disorientation, it does not mean that she consents to the act. Consent is based on choice without threat and is active, not passive.
Myth: Rape is an act of passion.
Fact: Rape is an act of violence. Men rape, not solely for sex, but to feel power over another person.
Myth: A woman can tease or lead a man on to the point that he can no longer control his sexual urges.
Fact: Men who rape do not have a stronger sex drive than other men have. Rather, one third of all rapists were unable to complete the sex act. In most cases rapes are planned acts, not spontaneous urges. Both stranger and acquaintance rapists usually set up their victims-the stranger by stalking the victim until she is alone, the acquaintance by arranging a situation where she is isolated.
Myth: Women lie about rape to get revenge on a man or because they feel guilty about having sex.
Fact: False reports of rape occur at the same rate as for any other violent crime: 2 percent. On the other hand, researchers agree that rape is grossly underreported.
Myth: A woman can "ask" to be raped by wearing provocative clothing, drinking alcohol, letting a man pay her way, or going to his home.
Fact: Using bad judgment, being naive or ignorant, does not mean that a woman deserves to be raped. Rapists bear sole responsibility for the rape.
"The crime is not about the act of 'sex' but rather the sexual act is the tool that the perpetrator uses to commit a violent crime."-Wanda Keyes-Robinson, division chief, Sexual Offense Unit, Baltimore City, Maryland.