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Myths & Facts

 about sexual violence 

Myth #1: If someone was assaulted, they probably did something to provoke it.

The cause of sexual assault is always the perpetrator – it is never the victim’s fault. No matter what they were doing, wearing, or saying, if consent was not given, it is a crime to touch someone sexually. All kinds of people – all ages, races, and genders – experience sexual assault. There is no specific ‘type’ of victim and no reason that anyone should be blamed for what happened to them.

Myth #2: If someone decides to get drunk, they are partly responsible if something happens to them.

FACT: Drinking does not equal giving consent. In UK law, consent can only be given if a person agrees freely to the activity and if they have the capacity to give that consent. Someone who is intoxicated, whether by alcohol or drugs, does not have the capacity to consent. It is the responsibility of the perpetrator not to take advantage of someone who is intoxicated, not the victim to stop someone’s unwanted advances.

Myth #3: Sexual assault usually happens between strangers.

FACT: Sexual assault does not just happen between strangers – in actual fact, it occurs more frequently between people who already know each other. According to statistics published by RAINN, 8 out of 10 cases of rape are committed by someone the victim already knows – with a significant proportion of those being by the victim’s partner or ex-partner. A victim’s relationship to the perpetrator does not change the fact of sexual assault – there is no relationship or scenario where anybody has the right to touch them sexually without consent.

Myth #4: If someone doesn’t say ‘no’, they are automatically saying yes.

FACT: Consent isn’t as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. If someone is coerced or feels that it would be unsafe to say no, they might not explicitly say ‘no’ – but that doesn’t mean that they actually want it to happen. Consent should be freely given and importantly, enthusiastic – if someone is put in a position where they can’t safely refuse, then they can’t properly give consent. 

Myth #5: Men can't experience sexual assault

FACT: While it is true that women and non-binary people are at a higher risk for experiencing sexual assault, this does not mean that men don’t experience sexual assault. It is estimated that as many as 1 in 20 men have been raped or sexually assaulted as an adult. There are charities and helplines dedicated to helping male survivors, such as Survivors UKSafeline’s Male Survivor Helpline and (for men experiencing domestic violence) the ManKind Initiative, as well as plenty of services which are gender-inclusive, including Oxford ISVAs (Independent Sexual Violence Advisors) (see our Getting Support FAQs).

Myth #6: Many allegations of sexual assault are made up.

FACT: The myth that people lie about sexual assault for attention, revenge, or political gain is extremely harmful to survivors and can be a significant barrier to reporting. The rate of false allegations of rape is actually no higher than any other crime – in fact, it is estimated that the majority of survivors of sexual assault don’t report it to the police at all. Treating victims of sexual assault with suspicion when you wouldn’t treat victims of any other crime the same way is very harmful.

Myth #7: If someone didn’t fight back, it can’t have been assault.

FACT: Fighting back is only one of many fear responses people have – not everyone (or even a majority of people!) will physically fight back if they feel they are in danger. Some will tense up and freeze, try to hide or run away, or physically ‘flop’ instead of struggling as a way of minimising physical trauma. These are automatic responses which do not indicate how the person is feeling – they only mean the body is trying to defend itself. This also extends to physical signs of arousal or orgasm, which can occur even in cases of sexual assault as the body’s way of reducing discomfort. None of these things mean that the person actually wanted sexual contact to happen, and none of them undermine the fact that if consent was not obtained, it’s sexual assault. 

Authors: Lizzie Hornsby

Created: 24 May 2022

Last updated: 24 May 2022