Myths and Facts about Sexual Violence

Myths and Facts about Sexual Violence

Myth: Sexual violence only means rape.

Fact: Sexual violence is defined as a sexual act committed against someone without that person’s freely given consent.

Sexual violence includes:

  • Completed or attempted forced penetration of a victim
  • Completed or attempted alcohol/drug-facilitated penetration of a victim
  • Completed or attempted forced acts in which a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else
  • Completed or attempted alcohol/drug-facilitated acts in which a victim is made to penetrate a perpetrator or someone else
  • Non-physically forced penetration which occurs after a person is pressured verbally or through intimidation or misuse of authority to consent or acquiesce
  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences


Myth: Sexual violence isn’t a problem in my community.

Fact: Sexual violence is a human problem that affects all communities.

Visit to view a map of registered sex offenders in your community.


Myth: Most perpetrators are strangers to the victim.

Fact: 2/3 of sexual assaults – or 9/10 on college campuses – are committed by someone the victim knows.

  • The typical image of a stranger rapist jumping out of the bushes is not the norm. Far more often, sexual assailants attack people they know.
  • Two-thirds of rape survivors know their attacker; more than a third of rapists are a family member or friend of the victim.
  • The statistics are even more extreme on college campuses, where 80 to 90 percent of sexual assaults involve students who know each other.


Myth: Sexual assault is often a drunken mistake.

Fact: Perpetrators often rely on the misconception that sexual assault is a drunken mistake, miscommunication, or misunderstanding.

Any drug that can affect judgment and behavior can put a person at risk for unwanted or risky sexual activity. Alcohol is the drug most commonly used to help commit sexual assault. When a person drinks too much alcohol:

  • It’s harder to think clearly.
  • It’s harder to set limits and make good choices.
  • It’s harder to tell when a situation could be dangerous.
  • It’s harder to say “no” to sexual advances.
  • It’s harder to fight back if a sexual assault occurs.
  • It’s possible to blackout and to have memory loss.

Even if a victim of sexual assault drank alcohol or willingly took drugs, the victim is not at fault for being assaulted. You cannot “ask for it” or cause it to happen. 


Myth: Rape is about sex.

Fact: Sexual assault is violence, enacted in a sexual way. Like other forms of violence, sexual assault is about power and control. 

  • Rapists don’t rape because they’re uncontrollably horny. They rape because they want to control and harm their victim.
  • The majority of rapes are planned in advance— rape isn’t the end result of overactive hormones perhaps fueled by alcohol.

Myth: Rape can only happen to women.

Fact: Men account for 10% of sexual assault survivors in the United States.

While these rates are significantly lower than those experienced by women, all survivors deserve our advocacy, support, and activism. There continues to be a great deal of resistance in many spaces to recognizing men as survivors, and this resistance is reinforced by misconceptions like “men can’t be forced to have sex” or “men want sex all the time,” both of which are false.

When we talk about men being responsible in preventing sexual assault, we should remember that men are survivors too. And when talking with men about sexual assault, it’s important to remember that men could experience or have experienced sexual violence as well.


Myth: Reports of sexual assault are commonly false.

Fact: False accusations of sexual assault are extremely rare. Research demonstrates that rates of false reporting are consistent across violent crimes, including sexual assault.

It’s important to remember that each individual’s personal reaction is the first step in a long path toward justice and healing for the survivor. Knowing how to respond is critical—a negative response can worsen the trauma and foster an environment where perpetrators face zero consequences for their crimes. If someone confides in you that they were sexually assaulted, believe them.




  • 97 out of every 100 rapists go free. [source: RAINN]


  • Globally, 1 in 3 women experiences sexual assault in her lifetime.