There are many erroneous perceptions in the community about rape. “Myths” about rape minimize the gravity of the problem, provide society with a false sense of security, encourage victim-blaming and excuse the perpetrator.
False perceptions of rape allow perpetrators to get away with the crime and at the same time discourage victims from lodging reports or seeking help.
We need to dispel myths so that a survivor can be treated with dignity and respect when she seeks the help she needs.
Myth: Only young, pretty, women are sexually assaulted.
Reality: The age of a rape victim ranges from infancy to old age. Her appearance is seldom a consideration. Rapists choose to attack a victim who seems to most vulnerable. Opportunity is the most important factor determining when a rapist will rape.
Myth: Girl who wears sexy clothes or flirt with men provokes rape.
Reality: A rapist chooses his victim for their vulnerability and accessibility, without regard to her physical appearance or behavior. The only person to blame for rape is the rapist. Children, elderly women, and women who dress modestly or who are in tudung (wearing head scarves) have been raped.
Rape is not related to the way a girl dresses or the way she acts. This is a myth that excuses the rapist’s behavior by blaming victim. Assuming that a woman provokes attacks by her dress or behavior is victim-blaming. No person, regardless of his/her behavior, ‘deserves’ to be raped.
Myth: Rape is an uncontrollable act of lust. Most rapes are spontaneous acts of passion where the assailant cannot control himself.
Reality: The vast majority of all rapes are planned. Rape is not about lust. Rape is a premeditated act of violence and not a spontaneous act of passion. A man cannot control his sexual impulses. The vast majority of rapists are motivated by power, anger and control, not sexual gratification.
Myth: Women often lie about getting raped.
Reality: Research indicates that the rate of false reports of rape is 2%-3%, no different than that of other crimes. It is important to remember that research around the world suggest that only 1 in 10 rape cases are reported and of that, only 1 in 10 reported cases get taken to court.
Myth: Most women are raped by strangers.
Reality: Police statistics tells us that only a small percentage of rapes are committed by strangers. It is estimated that in 80% of the cases, the woman knows the rapist. In those cases, the rapist is an acquaintance, friend, or even family member. A rapist can be anyone she knows.
Myth: Most rapes happen in dark alleys, deserted areas, and other dangerous places.
Reality: According to statistics, 69% of rapes happen in homes and buildings. Women should still be careful at night, on quiet streets, or in poorly lit areas. Nevertheless, it is important to know that women are also at risk of being raped in other places.
Myth: It is impossible for a husband to sexually assault his wife.
Reality: Regardless of the marital or social relationship, if a woman does not consent to sexual activity she is being sexually assaulted. Some countries have laws against rape in a marriage. Many women who suffer from domestic violence who have experienced some form of sexual abuse within their marriage. In Malaysia, it is against the law for a man to hurt his wife sexually.
Myth: A woman can prevent rape if she really wanted to.
Reality: Most rapes involve physical force and/or threats of force. Many victims do not fight back due to fear, shock, or the perception that fighting back will lead to greater harm. Because rape is a potentially life-threatening crime, whatever the rape victim does to survive the assault is an appropriate action.
Myth: A rape victim will be hysterical.
Reality: Rape survivors can exhibit a range of emotional responses to an assault. She may be calm, withdrawn, or hysterical. She may also react in laughter anger, apathy, or shock. Each survivor copes with the trauma of the assault in a different way.