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The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape is working to eliminate all forms of sexual violence and to advocate for the rights and needs of victims of sexual assault.

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The Realities of Sexual Violence

“People don’t lie about being sexually assaulted.”

Whenever a person experiences sexual assault, the idea that they will not be believed often acts as a deterrent to seeking help. Additionally, victim or survivors of sexual assault are also often blamed for what has happened to them. Because of this, and other factors, people who have been sexually assaulted report less often and do not get the help they need at a time when they need it most.

Why do people think this way?

There are many thoughts about why people think others lie about being sexually assaulted: the victim or survivor wants revenge, woke up the next morning and regretted having sex, etc. All of these ideas are false. Additionally, the general public does not want to believe that others they know and respect are capable of committing sexual assault.

The fact is…..

The FBI collects data on all crimes and has found that people falsely report being sexually assaulted at the same rate as other comparable crimes: 3 percent of the time.

Sexual assault occurs at rates much higher than what is actually reported. So, in other words, instead of thinking that people lie about being sexually assaulted the opposite is true. People are afraid to admit that they HAVE BEEN sexually assaulted because of the fear and pain that is associated with their lived experience.

“People who commit sexual assault are people you know.”

Often we think of people who rape as a specific person who looks, acts and lives a certain way. We think of them as being so different from us that they could not possibly be in our workplaces, neighborhoods and community events.

Why do people think this way?

The media falsely portrays those who commit sexual assault in a stereotypical way which influences how people form ideas around the issue. As a result, the general public is given the wrong impression of who is actually committing sexual assault.

The fact is…..

The majority people who commit sexual assault are everyday people who are married with children and regular jobs. They are also college students, family members, co-workers, etc. Their behavior is what makes them sexual predators not their lifestyles. This does not mean that stranger rape does not happen; it does. But most victims/survivors of sexual assault know their perpetrators.

“People who are in a relationship can be sexually assaulted by their partner.”

Just because two people are in a relationship does not mean that their partner cannot hurt them in a sexually violent way.

Why do people think this way?

One reason people think that people who are married or in committed relationships cannot sexually assault each other is because they have had sex with that person before – perhaps even for years – with permission. Therefore, there is a widely held belief that if one has given consent once, twice or over the years, then getting consent in the future is not necessary.

The fact is…..

“Research suggests that marital rape accounts for 25 percent of all rapes” (Bachman et al., 1994). Sexual assault between persons in a relationship, or what is called intimate partner rape (IPR), occurs in various ways – not just rape. Some of these ways include manipulation, coercion and pressuring the other person to have sex or do perform sexual activities when that person does not want to. No matter how long two people have been together or how many times they have had consensual sex in the past, does not give one person permission to sexually assault their partner.. Each time people engage in sex with their partners, they should use “checking in” language and use good communication to ensure that each partner is fully present in the decision to have sex.
Bachman, Ronet, and Bruce M. Taylor. "The Measurement of Family Violence and Rape by the Redesigned National Crime Victimization Survey," Justice Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 3, September 1994.

“Drunk or drug-facilitated sex can be sexual assault.”

When drugs or alcohol are used to lower someone’s cognitive thinking skills or ability give consent to sexual activity that is rape. Often when a victim or survivor reports having been intoxicated or on drugs, their story is deemed “regret sex” or “they just had too much to drink.”

Why do people think this way?

Our society is one that uses sex to sell alcohol (which is a drug) and as a result, we are given images of how people are “supposed to act” when they are under the influence. These ideas come directly from the media and alcohol companies of whom portray women and men in very different roles when they are drinking. Women are portrayed as becoming sexually aroused and highly promiscuous. Men are portrayed as becoming reckless and predatory for sex. In other words, the media sells us ideas of the expectation of alcohol’s effect which leads to justifying the sexual act or dismissing the sex act as “just drunk sex.”

The fact is…..

“At least 50 percent of college students’ sexual assaults are associated with alcohol use” (Abbey, 2002). But the problem doesn’t stop at just college campuses. Alcohol and drug-induced sexual assaults occur inside and outside of our homes, workplaces and social functions. When alcohol and drugs are used as ways to lower a person’s inhibition or defenses so that they are not able to give consent, this is sexual assault and punishable under the law.

Abbey, A. (2002). “Alcohol-Related Sexual Assault: A Common Problem among College Students.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Supplement 14: 118-128.

“Men and women both can be victims of sexual assault.”

Sexual assault and rape are traditionally thought to be a women’s issue; that women are the only ones who are and can be victimized; and that women are the ones who should end sexual assault. Unfortunately, men are victims and survivors of sexual assault and rape too. Their victimization is just as important to take seriously and end as women’s victimization.

Why do people think this way?

Men are told to play very specific stereotypical roles in our society. Those stereotypes include being physically strong, emotionally absent and always in control. When men are put into these types of boxes, there is little room for them to admit that they have been a victim of anything, let alone sexual assault. Many people believe that men should have been strong enough to fight off their attacker; that men are not able to be sexually assaulted by women; and that men are simply incapable of being sexually assaulted.

The fact is…..

“About 3 percent of American men – a total of 2.78 million men – have experienced a rape at some point in their lifetime” (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2006). Men and boys’ responses to their victimization are important to take care of in respectful ways.
Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2006). Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Rape Victimization: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey, NIJ, CDC.

Resources:

A Guide for Friends and Family of Sexual Assault Survivors
Read More information and statistics on sexual violence
Get more information at PCAR’s other web sites
Need help? Contact a Pennsylvania Rape Crisis Center
 

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape * 125 N. Enola Dr. * Enola, PA 17025 * (717) 728-9740 * (800) 692-7445 * TTY (877) 585-1091

24-hour Information and Referral: 1-888-772-PCAR

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