Health & Safety

April 19, 2012

Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Challenging Myths and Misconceptions

Mary Chipman
Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program Manager

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and an excellent time to learn more about a devastating crime that can leave broken hearts and ruined careers in its wake.

Prior to the 1970s, those who were sexually assaulted had no specialized services available and were often misunderstood and ostracized when they attempted to gain support from police, social service agencies, and even friends and family.  Fortunately, today more is understood about sexual assault and more victim-friendly services are available.

Unfortunately, some sexual assault myths linger to this day, causing victims to feel blamed and therefore making them reluctant to come forward.  One of the goals of the SAPR program is to dispel these myths and educate Marines about the realities surrounding sexual assault.   The following list was compiled from SAPR Headquarters materials as well as from “The Sociology of Rape,” University of Minnesota,

Myth #1   Sexual assault is sex.

Fact:  Sexual assault is experienced by the victim as an act of violence and can range from unwanted sexual touching to oral, anal, or vaginal penetration.  It can be a life-threatening, terrifying experience.  Power and control are the primary motives of the offender, not sex.  In fact, most sexual offenders have access to willing sexual partners.

Myth #2  Most victims lie about being sexually assaulted. 

Fact:  The Marine Corps estimates that only about 7% of sexual assault reports are false.   Instead, sexual assault is considered one of the most under-reported crimes.  The Marine Corps estimates that approximately 80% of sexual assaults go unreported.

Myth #3  People cause others to sexually assault them by the way they dress and act.

Fact:  Sexual assault is usually premeditated.  Both men and women are capable of controlling and being responsible for their sexual conduct.

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