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April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. To help Hoosiers learn more about this form of trauma and how they can make a difference in the lives of survivors, IU Health Nurse Practitioner Barb Bachmeier shares some of the most common myths related to sexual assault.
1. MYTH: Sexual assault is not going to happen to me.
FACT: Victims almost always say they can’t believe they were raped. The reality is it can happen to anyone, regardless of race, gender or socio-economic status.
2. MYTH: You can avoid rape if you stay away from dangerous places.
FACT: It happens to people in their own homes and places they consider “safe.” Recently we treated a young woman who was raped by someone who abducted her as she was walking down the street in broad daylight.
3. MYTH: If you were raped, you somehow provoked it.
FACT: Rape and sexual assault are crimes of violence and control that stem from a person’s determination to exercise power over another. Neither provocative dress nor promiscuous behaviors are invitations for unwanted sexual activity.
4. MYTH: Rape victims will be battered, bruised and hysterical.
FACT: 95% of victims have no physical injuries, and emotions vary widely from person to person. Some may laugh, some may cry, and others may not show any emotion.
5. MYTH: If you didn’t put up a fight, it must not have been sexual assault.
FACT: Many victims experience tonic immobility, or a “freeze response” during an assault, meaning they physically cannot move or speak.
6. MYTH: All rapists are strangers.
FACT: Most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. It’s often an intimate partner, a former intimate partner, a friend of a friend, or someone the victim met on a dating site.
7. MYTH: Rapists are usually prosecuted.
FACT: Rape is the least reported and convicted crime in the U.S. There are a lot of reasons for that. Victims are concerned about not being believed, and they often feel embarrassed and ashamed. The criminal justice system is not victim friendly. Fewer than 5% of rape cases go to court.
8. MYTH: Women falsely accuse men of sexual assault.
FACT: According to the FBI, only 2% of rapes are falsely reported.
9. MYTH: Men can’t be sexually assaulted.
FACT: While it’s more common in women – one in three have been a victim of sexual violence – one in six men have experienced sexual assault.
10. MYTH: Serial rapists are uncommon.
FACT: Perpetrators of sexual violence almost always have criminal histories, including previous rapes. It’s a crime of power and control. It’s never about the sex.
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