Blame and shame: myths about rape and sexual abuse

Hello again from the Safeline Helpline team,

In our last blog I mentioned some of the Anti-Rape Campaigns that I’ve noticed over this festive period.  Many of the posters focus on festive party goers and seem to be putting the blame into the hands of the victim, and even their friends.  One campaign shows young women drinking together and asks “Which one of your friends is most vulnerable on a night out?” This reinforces a cultural myth that it is a women’s responsibility to modify her behavior, rather than the perpetrators’ responsibility not to attack someone.  Glosswitch has already written an excellent blog post about the phenomenon of blaming female victims pointing out, ‘A woman can only make herself vulnerable if others have already learned to see her as potential prey’.  Campaigns like #consentis from the CPS are trying to change this culture, shifting the focus onto consent and really trying to raise awareness about rape.  I also like this ‘Stop Rape’ poster from Rape Crisis Scotland that turns some of the messages to women on their head.

The other thing that really stands out for me about these poster campaigns is that most of the time the victims are women and the perpetrators are men.   This once again reinforces a cultural myth that it is only women who can get raped.   Generally, men are more at risk of being a victim of violent crime outside of the home and 1 in 6 men have been targets of rape or sexual abuse.  That’s a huge number –  5 million men in the UK.  Sadly, misinformation about male rape and sexual abuse means that men may feel too much shame to come forward – they might feel the attack means they are not a ‘real man’ or be concerned that the assault might be linked to their sexuality.  At Safeline we offer specialist support for men who have been targets of rape or sexual abuse.

Here are some of the myths around rape and sexual abuse – you will see that most of them are linked to blaming or shaming the targets of the abuse.

MYTH: ‘Real’ men don’t get raped

FACT: Abusers do not discriminate – it can happen to any gender, age, race, class or sexual identity.

MYTH: Women can’t be sexually abusive

FACT: People of all genders can act in ways that are sexually abusive.  It is estimated that 1 in 4 perpetrators of sexual abuse are female.

MYTH: Men who are raped are gay

FACT: Being raped by another man does not make you gay. There is no link between rape/sexual abuse and your sexuality.

MYTH: Men who rape men are gay

FACT: Rape is about power, control and violence not sexual desire.  The majority of men who rape other men identify as heterosexual.

MYTH: Rapists are all strange men in dark alley ways

FACT: It is more likely that a target of rape will already know the perpetrator in some way

MYTH: You can’t be raped in a relationship/marriage by your partner

FACT: You always have the right to say no – your relationship status makes no difference to this.

MYTH: People provoke rape by the way they dress or act

FACT: The way you dress or behave is irrelevant. There is no excuse for someone to rape another person

MYTH: People play hard to get and say no when they really mean yes

FACT: NO means NO

MYTH: If someone doesn’t fight back it wasn’t rape

FACT: Most people have heard of the “fight or flight” response but not many people hear about “freeze” this is a common reaction to trauma and we will talk more about this in another blog.

I’ll leave you with this excellent video that makes consent as simple as a cup of tea.

Thanks for reading – more soon

Safeline Helpline and Online Team

 


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