Here are a list of some of the most common MYTHS people have that prevent them from reporting or seeking help for what has happened, pulled from the government of Ontario's website.
Myths about sexual assault
Society’s understanding of sexual violence can be influenced by misconceptions and false beliefs, commonly referred to as ‘rape myths’. Separating myths from facts is critical to stopping sexual violence.
Below are some of the commonly held myths, corrected with the corresponding facts.
1-Myth: Sexual assault can’t happen to me or anyone I know.
Fact: Sexual assault can and does happen to anyone. People of all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are victims of sexual assault. Young women, Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are at greater risk of experiencing sexual assault.
2-Myth: Sexual assault is most often committed by strangers.
Fact: Of sexual assaults where a charge was laid by police, the majority (87%) of victims knew their assailant; most commonly as a casual acquaintance, a family member, or an intimate partner.
3-Myth: Sexual assault is most likely to happen outside in dark, dangerous places.
Fact: The majority of sexual assaults happen in private spaces like a residence or private home.
4-Myth: If a woman doesn’t report to the police, it wasn’t sexual assault.
Fact: Just because a victim doesn’t report the assault doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Canada wide, fewer than one in twenty victims reported the crime to the police in 2014.
5-Myth: It’s not a big deal to have sex with a woman while she is drunk, stoned or passed out.
Fact: If a woman is unconscious or incapable of consenting due to the use of alcohol or drugs, she cannot legally give consent. Without consent, it is sexual assault.
6-Myth: If a woman didn’t scream or fight back, 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.
7-Myth: If a woman isn’t crying or visibly upset, it probably wasn’t a serious sexual assault.
Fact: Every woman responds to the trauma of sexual assault differently. She may cry or she may be calm. She may be silent or very angry. Her behaviour is not an indicator of her experience. It is important not to judge a woman by how she responds to the assault.
8-Myth: If a woman does not have obvious physical injuries, like cuts or bruises, she probably was not sexually assaulted.
Fact: Lack of physical injury does not mean that a woman wasn’t sexually assaulted. An offender may use threats, weapons, or other coercive actions that do not leave physical marks. She may have been unconscious or been otherwise incapacitated.
9-Myth: If it really happened, the woman would be able to easily recount all the facts in the proper order.
Fact: Shock, fear, embarrassment and distress can all impair memory. Many survivors attempt to minimize or forget the details of the assault as a way of coping with trauma. Memory loss is common when alcohol and/or drugs are involved.
10-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.
11-Myth: It wasn’t 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, including 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. All of these acts are serious and can be damaging.
12-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 three times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than those who are able-bodied.
13-Myth: Husbands cannot sexually assault their wives.
Fact: Sexual assault can occur in a married or other intimate partner relationship.
Some Facts according to the Canadian Women Foundation (2016)
Women self-reported 553,000 sexual assaults in 2014, according to Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey on Victimization
Between 2009 and 2013, the rates of police-reported sexual assault of women by intimate partners rose by 17%.
There are three levels of sexual assault in Canada:
Level one sexual assaults cause little or no physical injury
Level two sexual assaults involve a weapon, threat, or bodily harm
Level three sexual assaults involve physical wounds, disfigurement, or threaten the life of the survivor
While most sexual assaults fall into the level one category, any type of sexual assault can have long-term impacts on a survivor’s psychological well-being.16 Many women who are sexually assaulted experience high rates of depression, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, suicidal behaviours, self-harm, eating disorders, and substance abuse issues.
Women who have experienced sexual assault are more likely to attempt suicide.
Understanding consent plays a key role in understanding what constitutes sexual assault. Without consent, any sexual contact is sexual assault. Consent needs to be enthusiastic and ongoing. It is given with a clear “yes”, affirmative words, and positive body language.
People can change their minds and withdraw consent at any time, so it is important for partners to communicate clearly and pay attention to each other’s body language.
Based on the Canadian legal definition of consent, it cannot be given in a situation that involves an abuse of trust, power or authority. Anyone who is unconscious cannot legally give consent.29 Anyone who is under the age of consent cannot give consent.
Despite the importance of consent, a 2015 study by the Canadian Women’s Foundation indicated that is not well understood. Almost all Canadians (96%) believe all sexual activities should be consensual, but only 1 in 3 Canadians understand what it means to give consent.
There is also a blurred understanding of consent when it comes to online and offline activity: 1 in 5 Canadians between the ages of 18 to 34 believe that if a woman sends an explicit photo through email or text, this always means she is giving consent to a sexual activity.
Some Canadians think there’s no need for consent in long-term relationships. The Canadian Women’s Foundation found that 1 in 10 Canadians believe consent to sexual activity is not needed between long-term partners and spouses.
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