Nowadays, a lot of information circulates on the Internet about sexual assault. While that can be helpful for victims and their loved ones, it can also be misleading and even damaging because there are also a lot of myths and uninformed opinions. Shey, the founder of We Are The Evidence, uses only her first name because, even though she’s leading this movement, it’s not about her. She says, “We are one voice. We stand together.”
Her organization’s mission includes busting sexual assault myths so that victims get the help they need. She says, “These myths are more than just incorrect information; they are powerful and dangerous. They permeate people’s thoughts and judgements which cause confusion for victims, lack of compassion and understanding from their loved ones, and influence people who serve on juries and even the judges.”
Myth – Rape Doesn’t Happen Very Often
Truth: One sexual assault happens every 107 seconds. Think about how many sexual assaults will have occurred by the time you finish reading this article! In the United States, there are an average of 293,006 sexual assault and rape victims every year. And these statistics only take into account the reports of people who are twelve years old and older. The horrible truth is that many children are raped every year, usually by someone they know and frequently by a family member or relative.
Myth – It’s Not Sexual Assault If You’re Married or in a Relationship
Truth: Actually, it is. About one in ten women have been raped by their spouses. Being in a relationship does not give the spouse or partner the right to force you to have sex when you don’t want to. No means no, no matter what the relationship or circumstances happen to be.
Myth – After a Sexual Assault, Victims Cry and Will Get Hysterical
Truth: Everyone responds differently to trauma, including sexual assault. Some people cry. Some people won’t show any emotions. Some people may even laugh, because even when we’re in pain, laughter can be a natural release. There is no right or wrong way for a victim to react.
Myth – A Lot of Victims Give False Reports or Lie About Being Raped
Truth: This is one of the most dangerous myths being circulated and promoted and it couldn’t be more off base. Only about two to eight percent of reported rapes are false accusations. That is a very small number. To put it in perspective, the same percent of murder and robbery reports are false accusations, and how often do we hear about those? This myth is particularly dangerous because it’s stopping a lot of victims from coming forward since they know their stories will be doubted and their characters may be attacked. This has to change, and We Are the Evidence is committed to leading that change.
Myth – If You Didn’t Fight Back, It Wasn’t Rape
Truth: A lot of people freeze when they’re assaulted or experience what’s called tonic immobility, which means you temporarily lose the ability to speak or move. This response is as normal for some people as fighting is for others. Unfortunately, many people who are ignorant about trauma believe that if a victim doesn’t fight back, he or she must have “wanted it.” There are also countries where the court system rules that it’s not rape when the victim is unconscious and therefore cannot give consent or fight back. In the state of NY, it’s not considered rape if the victim was intoxicated.
Myth – Sexual Assault Is an Act of Passion or Lust That Cannot Be Controlled
Truth: Sexual assault is about control and power. It is not motivated by a desire for sexual gratification and therefore we should never attempt to justify it in this way. But even if rape were motivated by sexual desires, it wouldn’t change the fact that nobody has a right to violate anyone.
As you can see, there are a lot of damaging myths out there, and these are only a few of them. We Are The Evidence provides a platform for people who have been victims of sexual assault and their loved ones. Shey says, “We aim to empower people by educating them about sexual assault and the court system, and making sure they have reliable resources and a supportive community they can turn to. We’re also writing a comprehensive guidebook for victims of sexual assault and their supporters. Look for it in 2020!”
*For more information, you can follow Shey on Instagram @wearetheevidence.