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Some Commonly Held Myths About Rape

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Rape is one of the most destructive crimes inflicted on women and children. Victims are left traumatized, depressed, anxious, self hating and self blaming. This is an invasion of personal space and physical, bodily boundaries during which the will of the victim is ignored.There continue to be many distortions, misunderstandings and misconceptions about this crime that serve to reinforce the self loathing felt by the survivors of rape.

Over decades of private psychotherapy practice, I have worked with many women who, either during their adulthood or childhood, were raped. All of them, despite having an intellectual awareness that they were not to blame, believed that it was their fault. Society, despite all we know today, still clings to myths about rape that reinforce these self punishing attitudes held by survivors of rape.

Here are some of the untrue and distorted beliefs about this crime along with the actual facts.

Myth 1: Rape is sex.

Fact: Rape is experienced by the victims as an act of violence. It is a life-threatening experience. Power, control and anger are the primary motives for these perpetrators.

Myth 2: Women incite men to rape.

Fact: Rape is the responsibility of the rapist alone. There is nothing about the way women dress or behave that justifies or explains the actions of the rapist. Actually, people of every age, physical type suffer rape.

Myth 3: There is a “right way” to respond to a rape situation.

Fact: In other words, if the victim fought the rapist or screamed for help, the rape could have been prevented. People need to remember that this life-threatening crime sometimes ends in the death of the victim. There is no right or wrong way to react to a rapist except for a person to use their instincts at the time. If the victim escapes alive she has done the right thing.

Myth 4: A victim should be discouraged from thinking about the rape.

Fact: I have worked with too many victims who kept this assault secret where it festered inside. Usually, it’s fear of judgment and condemnation that prevents them from disclosing what happened. In most cases I have worked with, it is only after a solid and trusting relationship has been built between myself and the patient, that they are willing to discuss what happened. As a result, I have rarely known of the crime at the early stages of psychotherapy.

Myth 5: Men can’t be raped.

Fact: Statistics show that males ranging from twelve years of age and well into adulthood are raped in the United States. At times, boys far younger than twelve are raped.

Myth 6: Incest is rare.

Fact: An amazing number of relatives commit rapes. These include parents, uncles, cousins and other family members.

Myth 7: Women often make false reports of rape.

Fact: According to FBI crime statistics, only a small percentage of reported rapes are found to be false. The public clings to the notion that rape victims are liars attempting to win large sums of money by suing the accused. Yet, the over whelming numbers of reported rapes are found to be factual.

Myth 8: A man can’t rape his wife.

Fact: Many states now have laws against rape in marriage. The idea that a man can’t rape his wife suggests married women do not have the same right to safety as do unmarried women. Most battered women have experienced some form of sexual abuse within their marriage. It is also known that estranged or ex-spouses sometimes use rape as a form of retaliation.

Myth 9: Rape only occurs outside and at night.

Fact: Rape can and does occur anytime and any place. Many rapes occur during the day and in the victims’ homes.

Myth 10: Sexual assault usually occurs between strangers.

Fact: By some estimates, over 70% of rape victims know their attackers. The rapist may be a relative, friend, co-worker, date or other acquaintance. The nice elderly neighbor who loves children, can be a pedophile.

Myth 11: Rape is a crime of passion.

Fact: Rape is an act of VIOLENCE, not passion. it is an attempt to hurt and humiliate, using sex as the weapon.

Myth 12: Wome Enjoy Rape.

Fact: This is one of those outrageous myths that carries with it a profound lack of information about how the body works. There are things that happen to the human body that are automatic, such as blinking and breathing. Even though it’s totally unwanted, a woman’s body can lubricate during the assult only because her body is on automatic pilot. Actually, this is the source of much guilt. No, neither women or men enjoy or ask for rape, however the nervous system reacts during this terrible act.

This is not a complete list of myths and facts. There are many more scenarios involving the use of alcohol, drugs, visiting a woman’s apartment at her invitation and etc. The fact is that “NO means NO.” If a person is forced into sex then they are raped. Sex is a mutually consensual act.

If you or someone you know was raped encourage them to enter psychotherapy with a mental health professional who specializes in working with victims of this crime. Point out that there are many self help peer groups around the nation that provide understanding, education and relief for members. Mostly, these groups are free.

More information can be found at:

By John Hamlin, University of Minnesota.

Your comments and questions are strongly encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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