Tall tales, legends, folk tales and exaggerations are all part of the fun we call "blarney." Sometimes these falsehoods are the center of our confusion surrounding important issues. The crime of rape and other forms of sexual assault remain surrounded by misconceptions that tend to minimize seriousness and put the blame on the victim rather than the offender. Exposing these myths and replacing them with facts is the first step toward changing attitudes and eliminating sexual violence.

When asked to visualize a rape or sexual assault scenario, many envision a dark night, and a young attractive woman walking alone. Out of the dark jumps a smelly, burly, scraggly man, who is overwhelmed by lust for the beautiful woman. The scoundrel knocks her to the ground and rapes her. He then flees into the night.

Or perhaps they picture a young, voluptuous, scantily-clad woman who's drinking and being overly flirtatious with men at a party. What did she expect?

These simplistic images of rape/sexual assault scenarios provide us with a number of myths about the crime. These myths insulate people from the reality of sexual assault, permitting them to live without fear that it could happen to them. Perhaps the most devastating effect of the myths is to shift the responsibility for the assault from the offender to the victim.

MYTH: Women who are sexually assaulted "ask for it" by the way they dress or act.

FACT: No one asks or deserves to be sexually assaulted. Whatever they wear, wherever they go, whomever they talk to, "no" means "no." It's the law. Sexual assault is a crime of violence, not passion.

MYTH: Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers at night in out of the way places.

FACT: Women face the greatest risk of sexual assault from men they know, not strangers. As many as 80 percent of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. More than 50 percent of all sexual assaults occur in the home and as many sexual assaults occur during the daytime as happen at night.

MYTH: Women frequently "Cry Rape."

FACT: Women do not lie about being sexually assaulted any more often than people lie about other crimes. (FBI reports 2 percent)

MYTH: Men who sexually assault women are either mentally ill or sexually starved.

FACT: Studies on the profiles of rapists reveal that they are otherwise "ordinary" and "normal" men who sexually assault women in order to assert power and control over them.

MYTH: It's only sexual assault if physical violence or weapons are used.

FACT: Sexual assault is any unwanted act of a sexual nature imposed by one person upon another. Most sexual assaults are committed by a man known to the victim who is likely to use verbal pressure, lies and/or threats during an assault.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you don't have to face it alone. For more information call victim assistance at (541) 575-0146.

This article and information was provided by Karen Johnston, Grant County Victim Assistance.

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