Myths and facts about sexual assault


In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness month we’ve put together a list of myths and facts to shed some light on a crime that can sometimes be hard to talk about. Countless surveys have been done to examine the rates and numbers concerning victims of sexual assault and sexual violence. Here’s what we know: FACT: Sexual assault happens frequently.

Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped at some point in their lives, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey released in 2010.

These numbers go up when looking at college campuses.  In a 2014 study of campus climate across 27 American universities, the Association of American Universities found that more than 1 in 10 college students had experienced non-consensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force or incapacitation since enrolling at their academic institution. That number was significantly higher for female undergraduate students. Almost 1 in 4 (23.1 percent) said they had experienced this kind of non-consensual sexual contact.

MYTH: Only a stranger can rape you.

The truth is that most victims know their perpetrator. Almost 4/5 of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Study: 2009-2013.

Rape isn’t restricted to acquaintances either. It can happen in relationships, too. The CDC’s The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found that more than half or 51.1 percent of female victims reported being raped by an intimate partner. As a comparison, 40.8 percent of victims reported being raped by an acquaintance.

FACT: Rape is an under-reported crime.

A special report by the U.S. Department of Justice found that of college-aged females, ages 18-24, over the years 1995-2005 only 20 percent of students reported sexual assault crimes to the police, while 32 percent of non-students the same age reported to the police.

FACT: Most rapists get away with their crimes, even when if they get reported.

Only two rapists out of every 100 will be convicted and serve prison time for their actions, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. For every 100 rapes, 32 get reported to the police and seven lead to arrests but of those only two lead to felony convictions.

RAINN was able to make this assessment based on the Department of Justice’s Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties: 2009 survey, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports 2006-2010 and the Justice Department’s National Victimization Survey.

MYTH: Fraternity men are just like everyone else when it comes to rape.

Multiple studies have found that men in fraternities are 300 times more likely to commit rape. Does these mean that all fraternity men are bad? No. Does it say something about the group mentality generated at frats? Yes, according to well-known researcher Dr. John Foubert.

Foubert is a professor at Oklahoma State University and researcher of sexual assault. He has been called to testify before Congress regarding how to stop sexual assault.

A 2007 study by Foubert found that fraternity men committed the same number of sexual assaults as other males before college but upon joining a fraternity the number of sexual assaults committed by the same men jumped to three times that of those males who did not join a fraternity.

MYTH: Reporting incidents of sexual assault is easy.

False, sexual assault is difficult to speak about, especially when it is with an authority figure whom the victim does not know. The process for investigating a sexual assault case can be long and arduous and for sexual assault survivors the choice of whether to report or not can be complicated by many factors.

Of the 80 percent of female college students who said they did not report their sexual assault to the police in the U.S. Department of Justice’s special report, 26 percent said their assault was a personal matter. 20 percent said they feared reprisal and 10 percent said they did not want to get their perpetrator in trouble with the law.

Reporting is never as easy as it sounds.

FACT: There are resources for survivors of sexual assault.

If a friend comes to you to talk to you about a sexual assault – listen closely and believe them. Help them find resources in their community whether that be the local hospital that provides free medical forensic examinations, the police department, a school’s Title IX investigator, or a public sexual assault advocacy program that does not report to the police.

If dealing with a student who does not want to report their assault. Academic accommodations are available at universities including help moving residence halls, switching classes or even taking a break from school. Each university in the United States is required by law to have one Title IX officer. Know your rights.


Michelle is a fun-loving, college freshman who’s always on the lookout for a new adventure. She loves to talk politics, religion, cinema and also dogs, Jane Austen, and the merits of chocolate. If she’s not typing away at her computer, mocha in-hand, you might find her binge-watching Parks and Rec or out for a run in her native Tucson, Ariz.