It is shocking that in 2021 survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual violence are still faced with a society plagued by myths and misunderstandings about sexual violence and abuse.
So, what exactly are rape myths, and why are they a problem?
A myth is defined as “an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.”
So, in this case the false belief is typically used to try to justify why an incident of sexual violence or abuse has happened.
However, the prevalence of these beliefs is incredibly toxic and is dangerous for survivors and society.
Rape myths can exacerbate feelings of shame, guilt and self-blame for survivors.
This can reduce the chances of survivors opening up about their experiences due to fears that they will not be believed, or that they will be judged for what happened.
Concerningly rape myths are sometimes used by perpetrators, and even defence barristers, in order to try to discredit victims.
This is incredibly damaging to survivors and the criminal justice system, which should be offering a non-judgemental, stereotype free space for survivors to seek justice.
It seems so obvious that rape myths and stereotypes are harmful, it is hard to imagine why they still exist.
There are two key reasons for this:
Lack of education/awareness
In some circumstances, stereotypes simply occur due to a lack of reliable information about a particular topic.
Often, if we are not taught about a topic, we try to fill in the blanks with information from the media or through conversations with friends.
Unfortunately, particularly in the case of sexual violence and abuse, this information is often inaccurate and very misleading.
Fear and self-protection
It is quite common for myths and stereotypes to be used as an attempt to understand or explain what is happening in the world.
For most people, the idea that they too are at risk of being a victim of sexual violence is too difficult to accept.
Instead of accepting this risk, people look for ways of trying to blame the victim for what happened.
This allows people to distance themselves from the threat of it happening to them, or someone they know.
Sexual violence and abuse are horrific crimes, and no survivor should ever be made to feel like they are to blame for what happened.
As a society we need improve education and open up conversations about sexual violence and abuse to help combat rape myths and stereotypes.
We must ensure that survivors receive the respect and support they deserve.
Head to The Survivors Trust Podcast to listen to us unpick some of the most common myths and raise awareness of the TRUTH surrounding sexual violence and abuse.