1. Rape is sex.
Rape is violence! “Nonconsensual sex” does not exist. To call rape “nonconsensual sex” is the same as to call robbery “nonconsensual encounter”. By using these euphemisms we minimize and trivialize the harm that is done to the victim. It is because rape is often seen as sex that some people are reluctant to consider it a serious crime. Benedict writes: “As a teenage victim of rape once said to me, rape is to sex like a punch in the mouse is to a kiss… I prefer to characterize rape simply as a form of torture. Like a torturer, the rapist is motivated by an urge to dominate, humiliate or destroy the victim. Like a torturer, he does so by using the most intimate acts available to humans – sexual ones. Psychologists and researchers in the field have discovered that rape is one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a person”. Because rape is a form of violence, it can and does often happen within a relationship, with the assailant knowing the victim. The victim can be raped by the assailant even if she loves him.
2. The assailant is motivated by lust.
In reality, rapists are motivated by the desire to dominate and/or humiliate their victims. Rapists are often driven by anger, insecurity, attempts to prove their masculinity through violence, or even by sadism. That is why we must never suggest that a victim provoked the attack by flirting, dressing suggestively or appearing sexually available. By saying that we would completely miss the point. Rapists do not attack women because of what they do or how they look. Rape is never the victim’s fault. Even if a victim willingly went to bed with her assailant but then decided not to have an intercourse, it is still rape because he did not want to stop.
3. The assailant is perverted or crazy.
Nope. You would never recognize most rapists in the crowd. They might have ordinary looks or appear pleasant and attractive. The majority of rapists are known to their victims, they are not seedy and suspiciously loners hiding in the shadows. They walk the streets among us and they look like us. Their physiological profiles are also not beyond what is considered “norm”. Many sexual assaults happen not because assailants are some kind of perverts, but because of the common expectations and pressures connected with masculinity. Rapists might want to prove to others or themselves that they are “real men”, or they might simply feel entitled to their victims’ bodies.
4. Women provoke rape.
Please, give me a break! Rape is violence and nobody wants being attacked, humiliated and tortured. So women surely do not provoke rape on purpose, in order to revenge or as some kind of perverted entertainment. And because rape is not sex, women also do not unconsciously provoke rape by their sexuality. Benedict notes that “interviews with rapists have revealed that they barely notice the looks of their victims… Most commonly, rape is a crime of opportunity: the victim is chosen not because of her looks or behavior, but because she is there”. As for the rape that happens within a relationship, a victim should not be blamed of provoking the assault same as a wife should not be blamed if the husband beats her. And do not give me that BS about the rape being the victim’s fault because she walked into the dark alley. Women have the right to go wherever they please.
5. Women deserve rape.
Every time people ask the victim: “What were you doing there so late and alone?”, “Why did you go with him to the bar?”, “Why did you hitchhike?” – they revive this dangerous myth. If the woman knew her assailant, if she let him walk her to the door, if she has been in a relationship with him, if she walked down an empty street, if she drank in bar, if she jogged through a midnight park – she NEVER deserves to be attacked. Women, and everybody else for that matter, should be able to take such risks and not be blamed if something bad happens to them. Well, we should create the world where nothing bad will happen to them in the first place.
6. Rape happens to “bad” women.
It is a part of a larger myth that bad things do not happen to good people. Unfortunately, they do. Rape does not happen because women are sexually available. It happens because of rapists’ desire to hurt and dominate, because of their insensitivity and anger. According to Benedict: “The myth results in a cyclical trap for a sex crime victim: The woman becomes ‘bad’ by virtue of having been raped because one myth holds that she would not have been attacked if she had not provoked the assailant with her sexuality, while another myth holds that only ‘loose’ women are sexual”. Phycologists show that patterns comfort people. We like to think that things happen for a reason, that events are connected. The world where everything is random is just too terrifying. And of course we like to think that we are good and nothing will happen to us if we stay that way. Thinking that the rape victim has brought it on herself is part of physiological defense mechanism, as old as humankind itself.
7. Women cry rape for revenge.
This myth dates back to the Biblical days – think of the story about Joseph the Israelite and vindictive Potiphar’s wife. However, statistics show that the tendency of women to lie about rape is largely exaggerated. It happens in no more than 2 percent of cases, as often as with other kinds of crimes. Interestingly, when somebody is robbed or conned they are never questioned as much as rape victims. There is a disturbing distrust of women who accuse men of rape, as if that’s what we do to entertain ourselves. Women who report rape are subject to humiliating grilling by everybody starting from their friends to the police to the judicial system. Do you really think that somebody would risk such humiliation and trauma for a lie?
Why do all these myth still exist and persist in our culture? Benedict explains: “One function of all these myths… is to protect nonvictims from feeling vulnerable. If people can blame a crime on the victim, they can find reasons why that same crime will not happen to them”. These myth are also connected to the gender inequalities and stereotypes that permeate society. Some men still feel that they own women’s bodies, or that have the right to dominate public and private spaces. Other men give in to the pressure to prove their masculinity, and, unfortunately, use violence to do so.
How we can fight against the rape myth? Educate yourself and others. Never blame the victim. Don’t buy into the rape culture. Rape is not sex and it is not a joke. It is a difficult topic to talk about, but in order to destroy the dangerous myths connected with sexual violence we should continue bringing them into the light.
(previously published by http://www.cultnoise.com)