Sexual Violence is something that takes place in the everyday life of many women. Stemming from the notion that men are superior to women, violence against women is inflicted in various forms such as rape to physical and verbal abuse.
There are many myths that surround Sexual Violence when it comes to feminism. This week’s FYI decided to debunk these myths solely for your information.
Myth #1: Sexual assault is an impulsive, uncontrollable act of lust or passion. The victim is irresistible to the rapist (i.e. boys with raging hormones just can’t control themselves).
Fact: Studies show that the majority of sexual assaults are planned. In many cases the perpetrator took advantage of a person in a situation where she/he was particularly vulnerable (drunk, isolated, emotionally troubled, etc.). Sexual assault is an act of violence and dominance, not of sexual desire. Sex is used as a weapon to inflict violence, humiliation, revenge, or control over another person. Perpetrators do not describe their motivation in terms of sexual gratification, but in terms of anger and conquest.
Myth #2: Victims ask for it by their actions, behaviours or by the way they dress.
Fact: To say that someone wants to be raped is the same as saying that people ask to be mugged, robbed or murdered. Perpetrators choose their victims without regard to physical appearance. Victims range from infants to the elderly. Sexual assault is about vulnerability and access. If someone is vulnerable and a perpetrator has access to him or her, that individual is at a higher risk of being assaulted. Women and girls who dress sexy may have a sexualized image of themselves or may desire sexual attention. Wanting sexual attention is very different than wanting to be assaulted. Intoxication may make a person more vulnerable and therefore more likely to be targeted for an assault, but they are not to blame or asking to be assaulted because they drank or used drugs. For a victim, sexual assault is a humiliating, degrading, near death experience. No person would ask for or deserve such an attack.
If we believe this myth, then we are saying that women may not express their individuality, femininity or sexuality. We are also saying that women and girls do not have the right of freedom of movement as citizens in a free country. If they are in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing, or wearing the wrong clothes, they are asking to be sexually assaulted. This myth is also a defence mechanism against sexual assault. We may believe that since we (or our daughters, sisters or mothers) would never do the things that supposedly provoke sexual assault, we (and our daughters, sisters or mothers) are safe. If one believes this myth and is sexually assaulted, that person may blame him or herself or wonder what they did wrong. This may cause a person to not seek help or report the assault out of fear that they will be blamed.
Myth #3: Strangers perpetrate sexual assaults. If women would avoid strangers and not go out alone they would not be sexually assaulted.
Fact: Most victims of sexual assault know their attacker at least casually. In many cases, perpetrators are well known to the victim and are in relationships that one would normally trust (i.e. boyfriend, family friend, friend, close neighbour or relative). Nationally, about 84% of all sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance of the victim. Studies of reported sexual assaults show that the overwhelming majority of sexual assaults are committed in the victim’s home, perpetrators home or some other private residence.
Myth #4: Most sexual assaults are reported by women who “change their minds” afterwards or want to “get even” with a man.
Fact: FBI statistics show that between 2% and 3% of sexual assault calls are false reports. This is the same false-reporting rate for all other types of felonies. If we believe this myth we will be skeptical of anyone who is sexually assaulted. We will use the one case that we have heard about that was a false report to dismiss the hundreds of thousands of cases that are founded every year. An estimated 302,100 women and 92,700 men are forcibly sexually assaulted each year in the United States according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In Colorado alone, an estimated 15,392 women and 5,140 are assaulted every year in our state according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. We will not provide the support that a victim of sexual assault needs and the crime and its effects will be minimized. Again, this kind of myth leads to victims blaming themselves and not reporting an assault.