Rape is the only true sexual assault
False! It is too often believed that the degree of violence during the crime is used to determine what will be considered a "real" sexual assault. For example, touching, rubbing, and peeping are sexual assaults. Many forms of sexual violence do not involve physical contact, such as exhibitionism, stalking, and cyber sexual violence. There is no assault that is less serious than others. For more information, see our “Forms of Sexual Assault” page.
An elderly woman cannot be sexually assaulted
False! This is a persistent misconception. Sexual assault is not the result of an uncontrollable sexual urge, but an act of violence, power and domination. Unfortunately, this concerns all people. But even more so, women who are vulnerable, despised and whose voices are not heard, such as older women, racialized women, women with disabilities, women living in poverty, women without diplomas, asylium seeker, transgender women, etc.
The aggressors are, most of the time, unknown to the victim
False! In reality, the abuser is usually someone the victim knows. He takes advantage of the relationship of trust, dependency or authority with the victim to sexually assault her. The sexual aggressor is a person who usually shares his life with a partner who allows him to express his sexuality actively and regularly. The aggressor is most of the time an “ordinary,” “normal” man. It can be anybody.
Women often make false accusations of sexual assault
False! This argument is heavily promoted by the aggressors and has the impact of casting doubt on the word of the person who has been sexually assaulted. The percentage of false accusations for all crimes is 2%, and there is no reason to believe that the rate is higher for sexual assault. In fact, the opposite is true, as only 3 out of every 1,000 aggressors will be convicted for their sexual assault acts. So it is not surprising that only 5% of victims file a complaint. Victims of sexual assault are still not recognized and protected enough in our society. A society that “has turned sexual assault into a crime where the victim feels guilty and the aggressor feels innocent.” (Benoit Groulx)
Women provoke sexual aggression.
False! It doesn’t matter how a woman behaves (hitchhiking, being out late at night, walking down a poorly lit street, using drugs or alcohol, dressing seductively, or taking a man home). This is not a provocation to be assaulted. No one is seeking to be assaulted, humiliated or abused. This myth places the burden on the victims and takes away the aggressors’ responsibility. It calls for women to avoid any behavior that men might interpret as sexual provocation or invitation. But the aggressor is not tempted by the victim’s beauty or seductiveness or their desire for her. What the aggressor seeks first and foremost is control and power. The people who are most often attacked are those who will not be believed or will not be able to report their aggressor, such as children. We all have a role to play in speaking out with and for those who have been sexually assaulted. Let’s break the silence, let’s be there for them and let’s believe them.
If a woman does not scream or fight back, it is not sexual assault. She probably wanted it.
False! When a person is sexually assaulted, the most common reaction is to be paralyzed with fear. She freezes and cannot defend herself. She may also be terrified that her attacker will become more violent if she pushes him away, or she may be confused, not understanding what is happening. She may be intoxicated by alcohol and drugs and be unable to react or fight back. NOT MOVING IS NOT CONSENTING.
Aggressors are men with uncontrollable sexual urges or mental illnesses
False! This popular belief is the most persistent misconception. In reality, it is an act of domination. Most abusers do not have a mental health problem. However, some abusers plead insanity as a defense. In patriarchal societies, we are culturally conditioned to normalize male violence against women. In this context, abusers are in fact, unfortunately, “normal” men, whom we encounter every day. Speaking out, changing the culture, educating those around us is our greatest protection.
If the parents had a normal sex life, the father would not commit incest with his daughter
False! In the vast majority of cases, the abuser has an active sex life with his partner. Questioning the couple’s sex life puts the blame on women, who are treated as if they are responsible for men’s sexuality (responsible for satisfying them). Everyone is responsible for their own sexuality. The parents’ sex life, therefore, has nothing to do with incest.
Sexual assaults involving date rape drugs are committed by strangers in the street, bars or nightclubs
False! This is not the most common situation. Many of the women we meet at CALACS have been sexually assaulted with a date rape drug at a private party, when they felt fully confident. In fact, in 65% of cases, the aggressor is known to the victim. In the “hit list of rape drugs”, alcohol comes in first place, followed by cannabis.
It is not an assault because I have had sex with this person before
False! It is possible to be sexually assaulted by someone with whom you have already had consensual sex, your boyfriend, your partner, etc. When you say “yes” once or repeatedly to having sex with someone, you do not commit to saying “yes” all the time. Unfortunately, 1 in 9 women are sexually assaulted at least once by their partner.
A woman who is sexually assaulted cannot recover
False! Sexual assault causes significant harm to women. The pain is so great that many women cannot believe that they will ever feel better. Recovery means that the consequences are less and less present, that they don’t overwhelm us like they used to and that we finally start to live instead of surviving. Obviously, this healing process takes time, energy, effort and hard work, as with all serious injuries in a human life. But it is possible, we see it every day. And the safer society will be for women, the quicker survivors will be able to recover. We all have a role to play in moving towards that.