Myths and Realities

Myths about sexual violence motivate and fuel violence and influence negative societal reactions to people who have been sexually assaulted. These myths serve to deny, trivialize or justify sexual violence. 

Myth Reality
Women often provoke sexual assault by their behaviour or how they are dressed. No behaviour or way a person dresses justifies an assault. This myth takes the responsibility off the perpetrator and places it on the survivor. This myth is often used as an excuse by perpetrators.
People lie about being sexually assaulted to gain attention or seek revenge. The number of false reports for sexual assault is very low and is consistent with the number of false reports for other crimes in Canada, 2-8% (Statistics Canada, 2014). Sexual assault is actually one of the most under-reported crimes in Canada (<10%).
There is no such thing as a male survivor of sexual assault. Men/boys can be sexually assaulted regardless of their strength, age, appearance, sexual orientation or gender expression. When men are sexually assaulted or harassed at any age, they face stigma imposed by traditional views about masculinity.
Saying “no” is the only way of expressing a wish to not continue. Many perpetrators will rationalize their behaviour by saying that because they didn’t hear “no”, they believed consent was obtained. The law is clear: without consent, it is sexual assault. Consent means saying “yes” to sexual activity. Non-consent also occurs if a person is too intoxicated, if a person is too scared, If a person is asleep or unconscious.
Sexual assault only happens when there is a struggle or physical injury.

Many survivors are too afraid to struggle or fight. Their survival reaction might be to “freeze” or they might realize that resistance is too dangerous.

In cases reported to police, 80% of sexual assault survivors knew their abusers (Statistics Canada, 2014). Acquaintances, friends or relatives are more likely to use tricks, verbal pressure, threats or mild force like arm twisting or pinning their victim down during an assault.

Experiencing sexual violence is not harmful in the long-term. Sexual assault can have serious effects on an individual’s health and well-being. Survivors often feel fear, depression and anger. They can also experience harmful physical and emotional effects regardless of the age at which they experienced sexual violence or the details of the incident.
Some people are less likely to be targeted for sexual violence (e.g., 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous people, Racialized women, people living with disabilities, and sex workers). Many of these individuals are MORE likely to be targeted by any type of violence including sexual. Hate crimes are motivated by bias and prejudice. Social location is a predictor of likelihood to experience sexual violence.
When a woman says “no” she secretly enjoys being forced, teased or coerced into having sex. No one enjoys being assaulted. When someone says NO to any form of sexual activity it is the responsibility of the other person to respect this. This myth is influenced by patriarchal gender expectations.
If people are in a relationship, sex is an assumed part of the agreement. Consent to any sexual activity can only be given by the individual, regardless of context. Sexual activity cannot be expected because of a relationship.

(Adapted from Responding to Disclosures on, Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children)