5 Dangerous Myths about Sexual Violence
Whatever your gender, take the time to make sure you are not perpetuating rape culture
Rape culture is defined as “a subset of values, beliefs, and behaviors in a society that trivializes sexual violence, including rape. Many people do not believe that this is a problem that exists in America. Although the culture in the United States does not have the same issues other cultures have, we are still responsible for ensuring that we aren’t perpetuating dangerous, misogynistic ideas and passing them on to our children. Though our culture does not punish victims of sexual violence criminally, our culture sadly still promotes several myths that harm women:
1. “Women Need to Stop Putting Themselves in Dangerous Situations.” MYTH
Taking precautions and avoiding high-risk situations can contribute greatly to your personal safety. However, it doesn’t prevent the majority of sexual violence: according to statistics from RAINN, the majority of sexual assault victims/survivors were at or near their home during the assault. And, 48% of sexual assault victims were sleeping or doing some other activity in the home during the assault. RAINN also estimates that 80% of victims knew the perpetrator.
2. “Women Need to Dress More Modestly.” MYTH
Just like men, women have the right to dress however they see fit. When men experience sexual violence, we never consider what the man was wearing at the time. When we tell women they need to dress modestly in order to avoid sexual violence, we’re telling them that they’re only worthy of human rights if their appearance meets a certain standard. Not only is the modesty myth degrading, it’s blatantly untrue: if modest clothing really did prevent sexual violence, women in countries legally mandating modesty would never experience sexual violence.
3. “Women Make False Claims All the Time.” MYTH
Both men and women make false rape claims. However, false claims make up a vast minority: it’s estimated that only 2% of rape claims are false, which is the same rate other crimes are falsly reported. The issues surrounding this myth are twofold. First, when we overestimate the frequency of false claims, we prevent victims of sexual violence from coming forward. Statistics from RAINN’s website show that only 20% of college students file a report after experiencing sexual violence. Additionally, when we so freely dismiss women’s claims of sexual violence, we are teaching men that serious offenses, such as sexual assault and rape, will be readily dismissed by society as false.
4. “If the Woman Doesn’t Fight Back, It’s Her Fault.” MYTH
People can have all sorts of reactions to sexual violence. Sexual violence is a terrifying experience, and most women act in the manner they believe will best ensure their odds of survival, or they are having a subconscious biological survival response (e.g.: fight, flight, freeze). This means women react in all sorts of ways, some don’t fight back, some comply with the perpetrator, and some fight back. It’s understandable that many women would choose not to fight back when the perpetrator is physically larger and armed, or possibly armed. Women shouldn’t be expected to potentially risk their lives to physically fight off armed perpetrators in order to evade society’s victim blaming.
5. “Women Can Help by Not Provoking Men.” MYTH
Actually, women can help the most by refraining from perpetuating misogynistic ideas such as the aforementioned. Psychologists are still not sure what causes men to engage in acts of sexual violence toward women. However, the leading theories involve a combination of cognitive distortions, male entitlement, and misogynistic beliefs. Men with cognitive distortions engage in irrational thinking patterns that do not hold up to logical scrutiny. Cognitive distortions, combined with male entitlement, and views of women as inferior, tend to predispose men to violence toward women.
When Sexual Violence Affects Your Life:
Anyone can be the victim of sexual violence. Sexual violence occurs to people of every gender, race, religion, and socioeconomic status. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence, do not hesitate to get help immediately. As a society, we are morally obligated to work together to prevent sexual violence. This means that each one of us has a duty to refrain from spreading misogynistic beliefs that blame victims or survivors for the perpetrator’s actions.