As we have seen through the media coverage of Rihanna’s domestic assault, survivors of Domestic Abuse and Rape often go through horrors following the assault. They are blamed, questioned, doubted, and just generally re-victimized… this is something that needs to change. The following is a list of common misconceptions concerning rape and domestic assault. With this information you should be able to better understand what survivors of these tragedies go through, and what kinds of comments and beliefs are harmful to their recovery.
Its up to all of us to change the social climate that survivors face by holding individuals responsible for the misconceptions that they have… educate yourself, so you can educate others. Together, we can change the way survivors are treated.
Women often get themselves into situations that lead to rape by getting drunk, wearing revealing clothing, going out alone at night, etc.
Everyone in this society has the right to walk where they want, when they want, do what they want and dress however they want… without having to fear being assaulted as a result! Shouldn’t we strive to live in a world where people can wear what they want, do what they want, and say what they want without having to fear sexual assault as a result of those actions? Even though we don’t live in that world, it is important to acknowledge the fact that no action should have rape or domestic violence as a consequence. Assault is not an acceptable punishment and should not be treated as such.
Men cannot be sexually assaulted.
This is absolutely untrue. According to most research, at least 10 to 20 percent of all males will be sexually violated at some point in their lives, and in addition to that one in every ten rape survivors is male. Men can be raped – by other men or women, and they deserve the same amount of respect and assistance as female survivors do. This website provides some great answers and resources for men who are survivors of sexual assault. In addition, the National Organization of Male Sexual Victimization offers information, conferences, and more.
Rape almost always happens in a dangerous situation (like a dark alleyway) at the hands of a stranger.
Date rape and acquaintance rape are the most common instances of rape in society; eighty-five percent of rape survivors know their assailants, and thirty-five percent of sexual assaults occur within the family. In addition, if we consider the number of unwanted sexual acts that are committed within established relationships, but not reported because of the relationship, the numbers just get even higher. While there is a danger, yes, of being sexually assaulted by a stranger that danger is much more remote than most people believe.
Its not rape if she doesn’t say no.
While the law may not always consider this one a myth (although some awesome states, like NJ, have laws that call for an enthusiastic, affirmative YES in order for sex to be considered consensual) it is a myth. There are many reasons why a person might not say no; they could feel physically threatened, they could be too intoxicated (being drunk negates one’s ability to consent), and so on… this doesn’t mean that they WANT sex, however. A person can be raped, even in the absence of a “no.”
A woman who is married/in a committed relationship cannot be raped.
Unwanted sex is sexual assault, regardless of the nature of the relationship between the two people involved. The fact of the matter is, consent is something that is constantly changing based on the situation and the actions and as such, a relationship does not guarantee constant consent.
Sexually active people cannot be raped… and even if they are, its not as “serious.”
This goes along with what has been sad above… just because someone has consented to sex in the past does not mean they are obligated to automatically consent in the future. Rape is, primarily, about taking control over another human being, something that can be done to anyone regardless of past sexual experiences. While survivors who were not sexually active might deal with additional trauma in terms of working through the “theft” of their virginity, survivors who were not virgins at the time of their rape have been just as violated, and deserve the same respect and understanding as any other survivor.
Rape is an impulsive, uncontrollable crime of lust.
Ninety percent of rapes are planned. Ninety percent… that hardly seems like an impulsive or uncontrollable crime to me. The truth is that rape is a violent crime of control, not lust. People rape because they have a desire to exert power over someone else and rapists should be regarded with this in mind… excuses should not be made for them (like “men cannot control their sex drives”) because all this does is make it easier for rapists to attack innocent men and women.
If a woman says no, she just needs some more convincing.
T-Shirts like this illustrate the problem well; some may find this funny, but really all slogans like this do is make rape more socially acceptable action. Oh and, as an aside: people who are drunk cannot legally consent to sex, even if they do say yes – a drunk yes is as good as a no.
I, personally, was shocked to see how common this belief is. Movies, music, TV, the encouragement of women to play hard to get... so many factors play into the perpetuation of this idea to the point where many men simply do not believe that a woman means no when she says it. Its time to question this idea; don’t take scenes in movies (like the classic exchange between Rhett Butler and Scarlet O’Hara in the classic Gone with the Wind – he forces himself upon her, Scarlett protesting all the way, going as far as to carry her upstairs – suddenly, we cut to a scene of them in bed, after, with her beaming and happy. The message here? She meant no – until he showed her otherwise.) Women need to be taken at their word, their decisions must be respected. If a woman says no, please respect her decision and assume she REALLY MEANS NO; if she (by some fluke) actually means yes or she changes her mind, she’ll let you know by verbally expressing that but until that expression her no stands.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MYTHS
Domestic Violence is the result of uncontrollable rage or anger.
This is a horribly dangerous misconception as it often causes people to underestimate domestic violence. Just like rape, domestic violence is controlled and planned. Lets just look at the facts: people who are domestic abusers tend to only harm those who are weaker than them, for instance how many abusers have also threatened their bosses? If we’re arguing that these crimes are crimes of passionate rage then abusers would be experiencing that rage or at least irritation with people they interact with on a daily basis, even those more powerful than them.
The fact of the matter is, domestic violence is a form of control; it keeps a person constantly anxious, afraid of what might happen to them if they annoy the abuser in any way. Most abusers work in a cycle; they let the irritation and anxiety build over time before they explode over some incident, big or small, before entering into a period of apology and romance (the honeymoon period) that draws the survivor back in and keeps them under the abusers control. Abuse is calculated and planned, not explosive and impulsive… it keeps a victim terrified and dependent on the abuser all at the same time.
Domestic violence has to be physical
While some domestic abuse is physical, mental and emotional abuse can be equally as damaging and reprehensible. Below is the true spectrum of what constitutes domestic abuse…
People who are abused do something to “incite” domestic violence.
Like rape, domestic violence is about control. It doesn’t matter what a person in an abusive relationship does; the abuser is looking for reasons to snap, and they will find one. Sometimes, sadly, the victims of domestic violence will be accused of doing something to cause it, or even arrested for the damage they do to their abuser while fighting back; a major portion of the reasoning behind these false accusations is this misconception that abuse is somehow deserved or “asked for.” In Rihanna’s case, many newspapers accused her of inciting the incident by asking Chris Brown about the texts on his phone, or trowing his keys… this is absolute crap. I mean, think logically about this, do you believe that a woman who throws a set of keys deserves to be brutally beaten and have her life threatened? This doesn’t make sense and yet, so many of us accept thoughts like this as reasonable. The bottom line is, just like with rape, no behavior deserves the concequence of domestic violence and thus, no survivor should be accused of acting in a way that brought on their assault.
Its easy to leave a relationship once a person realizes their being abused.
If someone were to hit you on a first date, chances are they wouldn’t get a second; that’s why this is not how abusers work.
Abusers wait, they draw their victim in and build attachments. At first, typically, they start to exert power in “loving” ways (for instance, “Please change you clothes honey, those jeans are too tight, I don’t feel comfortable with other men seeing you walking around like that”) before getting increasingly violent and demanding. They are after one thing: power. They know how to gain power over someone, and they know how to keep it, that’s why there is a cycle of abuse – the honeymoon period is just as abusive and controlling as a physical attack, its just a different kind of abuse, as they all work together to keep a victim engaged in contact with the abuser and within their control.
The fact is, once a person can recognize they are being abused their options for leaving are often rather limited. Isolation is a characteristic quality of abuse as abusers work to convince their significant other to sever ties with their loved ones… by the time someone realizes they are being abused they often don’t feel they have anyone to turn to; the abuser may have cut off their financial means, may be threatening them physically…. the fact is an outsider can never know what external forces might be keeping someone from leaving.
These are just a few myths, certainly not all of them. Feel free to add your own myths or ask questions in the comments.