Busting rape myths

Unfortunately, rape is still considered a taboo issue in our society. But that doesn’t mean you should hide what you’re going through. There will always be people willing to listen to your story and embrace you. We’re one of those people. So, to help you out, we're here to dispel some common rape myths and set the record straight.

A young woman sits on a bench outside. She is thinking about rape myths.

T/W This article includes references to rape and harmful rape myths

UK rape statistics from The British Crime Survey have shown that 89% of victims don’t report the rape to the criminal justice system and 38% don’t tell anyone. Personally, we believe that this is because of persistent myths about rape – like the idea that a woman was ‘asking for it’ if she was drunk, or wearing a short skirt. We spoke to Jo Wood, a Rape Crisis worker, to help uncover the truth about rape myths.

Myth 1: Rape happens in dark alleyways and is done by violent strangers

Mostly false

We’re not diminishing the fact that this does happen, but it’s actually very rare. In fact, 97% of calls to the Rape Crisis helpline are from victims who knew their attackers. This means that they were friends, partners, colleagues, or ex-partners. As a result, according to official statistics, over 80% of rapes happen at home. Heartbreakingly, victims are often too scared to tell anyone because they assume they won’t be believed.

“We need to get away from this myth that rape is about a stranger jumping out of the bushes,” says Jo. “Of course, you should be wary when going out. But the reality is that it’s usually someone you trust – someone you thought you could be vulnerable around. We need to re-educate society to understand this.”

Myth 2: Women who wear short skirts, have slept around, or ‘led someone on’ are asking for it

False

This rape myth is actually incredibly damaging. 

Let’s make one thing crystal clear – nobody ever asks or deserves to be raped. Full stop. No matter what a person is wearing and no matter what their sexual history is, blaming women for something they did ‘wrong’ is only taking accountability away from the rapist. The person who’s committed this disgusting, invasive crime.

Myth 3 – Women lie about being raped

Mostly false

Rape victims are often accused of ‘crying rape’ and making up false allegations out of spite. Sadly, it’s become a part of the narrative of the media. But lying about rape actually happens in a small number of cases. In the Stern Review into rape, a CPS lawyer said false accusations are “extremely rare,” and an experienced police officer said he’s only seen two such cases in 15 years. 

Rape is an extremely traumatic event that is difficult to even talk about. Only a handful of people, if that, would be so insensitive as to use it for revenge. 

Myth 4 – You can’t be raped by your partner

False

Of all the rape myths, this one’s probably the most misunderstood. Going out with someone doesn’t mean you’re signing some kind of sexual activity waiver for the duration of your relationship. If, one day, you’re not in the mood you’re more than entitled to say no

However, not everyone believes and/or is taught this. UK rape statistics from the Home Office show 56% of rapes were committed by either a partner or former partner.

“Rape in relationships is most definitely a form of domestic violence. Even attempted rape and/or any from of unwanted sexual contact,” says Jo. “Again, lots of victims are scared to come forward because they’ll be dismissed. Shockingly, it may happen 20-40 times before they make the initial call.”

Myth 5 – When men get horny, they just can’t stop themselves

False

Firstly – put it this way, if their mother walked in, we’re sure any man would calm down real quick. Playing the ‘but I couldn’t stop myself’ card is just another way of placing the blame onto anyone else.

Secondly – rapes are quite often premeditated. It’s rarely ever a random act. “Rapists groom people similarly to how a paedophile grooms children,” says Jo. “They usually target vulnerable people to groom over a long period of time.”

Myth 6 – If you don’t fight back, it’s not rape

False

Can you honestly say exactly how you would act if you were being raped? We thought not. Often victims are so petrified that their entire body seizes up as a survival instinct.

In fact, physical force is only used in a reported 64% of rapes, and the victim is beaten in 9% of attacks. NOT CONSENTING makes it rape. Plain and simple. Regardless of whether of not the rapist has a cut lip or black eye.

In case you need a brush up on ‘yes’ vs ‘no’, you can learn more about sexual consent here.

Myth 7 – Rape is about sex

False

“Rape isn’t about sex,” says Jo. “It’s a crime of power and oppression. It’s assault using a weapon.”

Rapists don’t rape because they want or need sex. They do it because it’s the ultimate way to overpower and humiliate someone. 

Myth 8 – Men don’t get raped

False

While there might be more female victims than men, the Office of National Statistics estimates 3.5% of the male population have been victims of sexual assault. Trans and non-binary folk can also be victims of rape. 

We also want to note that being raped by another man doesn’t ‘make you’ gay. What’s more, both gay and straight men can be victims of rape.  Read more about male rape here.

Myth 9 – It’s not rape if you were drunk

False

This is one of the rape myths that’s quite the opposite actually. If you were too drunk to know what you were doing, the law considers it rape. In case you were wondering, The Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines consent as when the victim “agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice”. And if you’re absolutely shitfaced, you absolutely don’t have the capacity to consent to sex.

Drinking alcohol shouldn’t increase the risk of sexual assault and rape. The sad reality is – it does. However, the fact you were drunk should never be used against you, by others – or even yourself. Remember, the rapist is ALWAYS the only one at fault.

Myth 10 – If you’re not upset afterwards then it’s not rape

False

In media-created depictions of rape victims, they always cry, go straight to the police, and end up getting the rapist jailed. Back here in the real world, there is absolutely no ‘right’ way to handle getting raped.

“Most victims don’t run away screaming ‘I’ve been raped’ or instantly reporting it to the police. It may take them a long time to tell someone, or to even accept it for what it was. It doesn’t mean that they’re not affected,” says Jo.

If you’ve experienced rape or sexual assault and need support

Get in touch with our team, who are there to listen and support you without judgement. If you need more help:

Solace Women’s Aid finds creative and innovative ways to support thousands of women, children and young people each year from prevention and crisis to recovery and independence.

Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99.

Find your nearest Rape Crisis centre here.

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Tags:

consent| rape

By Holly Turner

Updated on 27-Jun-2022