Opinion Piece by Claudia Farley, Student Intern for the ‘Addressing Sexual Violence and Harassment on Campus’ Project
10 myths that you should be aware of
Sexual Violence and harassment seems to be in the news every day, occurring all over the place, from Hollywood to football grounds and, unfortunately, on university campuses too.
The University of Aberdeen is taking proactive steps to tackle the issue of sexual violence and harassment on campus, the first of which will be a questionnaire. This will guide the University’s work and will be available in the coming weeks, so watch this space!
In the meantime, here are 10 myths about sexual violence and the facts you need to know to dispel them.
- Myth: If two people have had consensual sex before, then they don’t need to ask for consent again and sex can be expected.
Fact: Consent must be given every time for everything. Just because someone has consented before, doesn’t mean they will consent again. You should always check that your partner is freely consenting. Consent can be withdrawn at any point during sex and if there is no consent it is sexual violence.
- Myth: Most rapes are committed by strangers.
Fact: Approximately 90% of rapes are actually committed by someone the victim already knows, trusts, or is even in a relationship with. As mentioned in the first myth, having sex before doesn’t mean consent is automatically given, so sexual violence in a relationship can and does happen.
- Myth: Most rape allegations are not true
Fact: Only around 3% of rape allegations are false. If someone discloses being a victim of sexual violence to you, the figures speak for themselves; 97% of the time the allegation will be true.
- Myth: Men can’t be victims of sexual violence
Fact: Anyone can be a victim of sexual violence regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, age or any other factor.
- Myth: Women can’t commit sexual violence offences
Fact: Anyone can commit sexual violence. Men can commit rape, rape by penetration and sexual assault. Women can commit rape by penetration and sexual assault. There is no ‘typical’ sex offender.
- Myth: If you didn’t fight back you weren’t raped.
Fact: Everyone responds differently to sexual violence. Some people run, some people fight and some people just freeze. All responses are normal. When you are a victim of a traumatic event, like sexual violence, your body goes into survival mode. You aren’t necessarily in control of your actions and your body’s survival instinct may be to freeze. Regardless of the response, if consent wasn’t given then it was sexual violence.
- Myth: Only ‘attractive’ people wearing ‘revealing’ clothes are raped.
Fact: Sexual violence has a lot more to do with control and power than being attracted to someone. Anyone can be raped and what they were wearing at the time is irrelevant.
- Myth: If you were drunk then it’s your fault.
Fact: For all sexual acts consent must be freely given. Consent cannot be given when you are incapacitated in some way, such as from being drunk. If you are raped or sexually assaulted while drunk it was not your fault. All of the responsibility lies with the perpetrator.
- Myth: It’s only rape if you have injuries to show for it.
Fact: Again, if consent is not given it is rape. Rape and sexual assault can be committed through coercion and deception or a victim can freeze, so the incident attack leaves no physical injuries. They are still victims of sexual violence.
- Myth: There is nothing we can do to stop sexual violence
Fact: Not true. People all across the world are taking proactive measures to prevent sexual violence and support victims. The University of Aberdeen is also taking proactive steps to tackle the issue on campus. Keep an eye out for the survey and make sure you complete it to help aid their work.
All of the facts listed here have been gathered from charities which tackle sexual violence and assault. They are all listed below. If you or someone you know has been effected by sexual violence or harassment then you can speak to Student Support or use one of the services provided by these charities.
Remember, in an emergency, always call 999.