• Rape is not solely or even mostly about sex. There can be several reasons for rape, including sexual gratification, revenge, recreation, power/control, and attempting to prove masculinity. Men don’t rape 80 year-old women because they are horny. If rape were only about sex, then only attractive young women (or men) would be raped (although women under 30 are by far the largest group of victims and that includes children). Anyone of any age, gender, or sexual orientation can, and have, been raped.

• Women can also commit rape. While most of the attention is on male sexual violence, and rightly so, because females are ninety-one percent of rape victims, some of those rapes are perpetrated by women, and women perpetrate some of the nine percent of rapes that happen to men. We can’t truly understand and hopefully end, sexual assault without understanding all aspects of the problem.

• It does not matter if a woman who is raped is a virgin or has slept with every man that moves. A woman who enjoys her sexuality is A) NOT a slut (that particular bit of male shaming of women’s sexuality is especially egregious) and B) if raped, was not raped because she enjoys her sexuality or in any way deserved it. See first comment if the reason why still eludes you.

• False accusations of rape are rare. There are actually two types, a false allegation, meaning a woman claims she was raped, but does not name a perpetrator, and a false accusation meaning the woman claims she was raped and names a perpetrator. The distinction is important because false allegations (no one is named) are more common than false accusations (a perpetrator is named), and many news reports that claim that false allegations of rape are around 40%, are not making the distinction that the majority of those never named a perpetrator, meaning no one suffered from the allegation. False accusations are no joke and can cause much harm to the accused including loss of job, expensive court proceedings, and loss of reputation, and very rarely jail time. What is troubling however, is that because a vanishingly small number of men face very real issues from false accusations, a very large number of women are automatically assumed to be lying about their sexual assault. The vast majority of rapists walk free among us. Any accusation of rape or sexual assault must be take seriously, and investigated thoroughly, to make sure that women get justice and that falsely accused men get the same.

• Worry over falsely accused men is not the only reason women are not believed. Two of the most common questions rape survivors are asked are, “Why didn’t you fight back?” and “Why can’t you remember certain things about the assault?” How our brains and therefore our bodies and minds react to trauma hold the answers. When a sexual assault is occurring the victim can literally be paralyzed. This is called tonic immobility. Several different hormones are released that inhibit thought processes, that help deal with potential pain, and to help the victim remain calm. Other hormone levels fall, leaving the victim with less energy available to fight or flee. These same hormones affect the hippocampus, which turns sensory information into memories, and the amygdala, which then processes the emotions related to the memory. So the same hormones that work to keep our bodies safe during an attack, also make it difficult to remember in great detail that same attack. In spite of the hard facts of science, the myth persists that unless a woman fights back or remembers every specific detail of her assault, she is likely a false accuser.

• Why don’t more women report rape? The last two paragraphs offer a big clue. One study indicates that 90% of survivors who report, face secondary victimization, including being told by police that they shouldn’t file a report, questioned about what they were wearing, questioned about their prior sexual history, and even if they had an orgasm during the attack, although that particularly nasty question usually only happened if the victim did not have an advocate present. The idea that a woman must have a pristine reputation, must have behaved as expected during her assault (fighting back), must remember every single detail of the assault, had to have been primly dressed, stone cold sober, have physical injuries, and most ludicrous of all, witnesses to the assault, persist and women know they aren’t likely to be believed. The U.S. media is also to blame for perpetuating the rape culture that is so entrenched in society. And people wonder why rape is the most underreported crime, with 63% of victims never reporting.

• Let’s talk a bit about consent. This really shouldn’t be that hard folks. Someone who is so drunk, that you’re positive they couldn’t make it home safely by themselves, also cannot give consent for sex. Just because someone has said yes before, that’s not a blanket yes for all sexual encounters. If someone uses coercion to force the issue, they do not have consent. Consent is an active act by both parties and it should be totally obvious that both parties are totally into it, whether that consent is verbal, or through body language.

• There are many myths surrounding rape that just won’t die including a few discussed above. One of the most common is that most rapes are perpetrated by strangers who yank unsuspecting women into dark alleys and rape them at knife point. While that kind of rape does happen, the majority are perpetrated by someone the victim knows. Another myth is that it wasn’t really rape unless the victim is physically injured. The rapist may use a weapon to control the situation, the victim may succumb to tonic immobility, they could be drunk, or they could have been drugged by the rapist. Another persistent myth is that victims who withdraw a rape allegation were never raped in the first place. There are many reasons why women decide not to pursue a rape claim including pressure from family, fear of reprisal from the perpetrator and more. Another enduring myth is that sex workers cannot be raped. This goes back to consent. If there is no consent it is rape, no matter what a person does for a living. These and other longstanding myths must be combated and counteracted at every opportunity if we are to ever get a handle on the issue of sexual assault.

• As rare as they are, there are false allegations of sexual assault and rape made. Why do women do this? This article does a deep dive into allegations, accusations, the reasons they are made and the mind-set of the accuser. It is well worth the read.

• Finally, let’s talk a bit about how credible women are seen to be when they accuse someone of rape. If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you would answer, they are rarely seen as credible and you would be right. Let’s suppose Suzy Smith came home from work and her apartment had been burglarized. Would she be afraid to call the police? Would she be afraid that they wouldn’t believe her, that they would find any number of reasons to find her report of a burglary not credible? Of course not. What about if she reported her car stolen? Her purse? What about if she called and said she had seen a child kidnapped off of the street? Or that she had seen a suspicious looking person leave a suspicious looking package somewhere? No to all of the above. Do lawyers see women as so non-credible that they never call them as witnesses in court or seat them on juries? Yet again no. So then why do women have little credibility when reporting a sexual assault? Rape culture. It is up to each and every one of us to educate ourselves on what rape culture is, and what we need to accept that we’ve been doing or believing to perpetuate it, and then making it a priority to change.

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