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Common Rape Myths Debunked

Many myths circle around about one of the most hateful crimes against women: rape. However, experts are sharing these myths and countering these misstatements with facts, in order to spread knowledge about rape and help victims come forward and heal.

Sheela Raja, an assistant professor and clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, shared five rape myths via email that she believes are important to debunk:

  1. “You cannot get pregnant from a rape (there is absolutely NO medical evidence to back up this statement).”
  2. “Rape rarely happens between people who know each other (in fact, stranger rape is much less prevalent).”
  3. “Women invite rape by dressing provocatively. We don't invite being robbed by carrying a purse or wallet. No one has the right to use someone else sexually against their will.”
  4. “Women who have been victimized before (like sex workers) get used to being raped. That is actually just the opposite. The more you have [been] victimized, the more serious your mental health symptoms become and the more help you need to survive and thrive.”
  5. “Unless you are physically injured, rape is not really that damaging. In fact, the interpersonal betrayal involved in rape is often one of the most difficult aspects for survivors.”

Tina B. Tessina, an author and psychotherapist, shared other common rape myths via email:

  1. “The primary myth, perpetrated by men, is 'she really wanted it' – which excuses the man from any responsibility for controlling his impulses and places all the blame on the woman.”
  2. “There's a pervasive myth that posits that men have a right to sexual gratification, and it doesn't matter who is hurt in the process. Men who are considered to have sexual prowess are lionized by the male community, and even some of the female community. Somehow, being sexual brutes becomes a way to be highly thought of.”
  3. “There are lots of mythic excuses for sexual misconduct: I was drunk, she dressed provocatively, my wife doesn't satisfy me, and others which purport to make it OK for men to act out in an emotionally immature way. Many excuses are made for male sexual behavior.”

Silvia Dutchevici, the president and founder of the Critical Therapy Center, shared these five rape myths via email:

  1. “I think one of the biggest myths is that someone was led on sexually, that being naked or sexual with someone automatically means you want it to go further towards intercourse, therefore it's should not be rape.”
  2. “Another myth is that spouses cannot rape each other.”
  3. “A big one is that men cannot be raped, or that women who dress or talk a certain way are asking for it.”
  4. “What is interesting about these myths is that not only are they untrue, but they subconsciously offer some of us some comfort in believing that we can have control over being raped, meaning that if we do not do any of those things (dress a certain way, engage in flirting, etc.) we will be safe. Of course that is a myth.”

Jonathan Miller, a therapist, said in an email that there are two main rape myths:

  1. “The biggest myth is that there are more false accusations of rape than of other crimes. You'll see statistics that claim there are - those are a mishmash of numbers from different police districts with different definitions of 'unfounded'. Often, a rape accusation will be marked 'unfounded' because the victim can't provide witnesses, the police officer can't find bruises, or the investigators decide the victim isn't hysterical enough. (The accuser has just been brutally assaulted. Is it a surprise they might shocked into emotional numbness?)”
  2. “The second biggest myth is that women want to be raped. Skimpy clothes and provocative dress doesn't mean a woman wants to be raped. Being in an unsafe place doesn't mean she wants to be raped. Even erotic fantasies about rape doesn't mean she wants to be raped.”

“Marta Meana, at the University of Nevada, hypothesizes rape fantasies are sexy, because it means the fantasizer is so desirable the man can't help himself. Bivona and Critelli, at the University of Texas, added that some women may have these fantasies because it's a dream of having her needs met without being called a slut, or being able to focus on her own pleasure without worrying about satisfying her partner.”

The overall point is that women may fantasize about rape in the safety of their own minds, but they don’t actually want to be assaulted in a situation that involves in control or desire.

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